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NJPW ‘Yuji Nagata 25th Anniversary Show’ (10.21.17)

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Tonight is the hometown celebration of Yuji Nagata’s 25th anniversary in wrestling. The show opens up with a package highlighting the career of Nagata, who was the ace of New Japan during their Inoki-led shoot-style era in the early 2000s. That was not a successful era for NJPW by any means but even at their lowest of lows his perseverance has led him to a great career that has now spanned 25 years. He comes out before the first match and tells the crowd that strength is determined by whether you get up after being knocked down.

Yujiro & Leo Tonga def. Kitamura & Oka @ 6:29
Featuring three extremely inexperienced wrestlers and Yujiro, this match doesn’t excite on paper. One of the biggest jokes is that we’re supposed to believe Kitamura would struggle against Yujiro because of the disparity in experience. Both Kitamura and Oka show promise though and are meant to be the focus here. A Gutwrench Suplex is delivered by Oka and a Jackhammer by Kitamura but ultimately Oka takes the Pimp Juice and Yujiro walks away the victor. Nothing here but the two high spots by the young lion team.

Kanemaru, Taichi & Desperado def. Yagi, Umino & Narita @ 7:38
Taichi makes his entrance from the balcony, lip-synching his theme, while other members of Suzuki-Gun come through the designated entrance. Each young lion hits a Dropkick onto a member of Suzuki-Gun to start off the match but are quickly put into their place. Umino receives the most offense of the young lions, hitting a second rope Dropkick and a top rope Elbow Drop. Narita and Yagi each only connect with forearms and Dropkicks. El Desperado forces Yagi to tap out via the Stretch Muffler. Very standard match. Not much shown other than the typical Suzuki-Gun shenanigans and some fire by the youngsters.

Liger, Tiger, Titan & Dragon Lee def. Kushida, Taguchi, ACH & Kawato @ 9:26
Each member is competing in the Super Jr. Tag Tournament which kicks off on Monday, making this a tease showcase of what’s to come. CMLL’s Titan is first to wow the crowd with his super athletic lucha libre style. ACH followed, showing off his breakneck speed and agility. The match was highlighted with a Quebrada by Titan and a top rope Brainbuster by Liger. The win went to Dragon Lee, who hit Kawato with a Desnucadora after a sloppy finishing sequence. A lot of fun spots but the sloppiness at the end hurt the feel of the match.

Goto, Yano & Yoshi-Hashi def. Suzuki, Iizuka & Taka @ 11:14
Yano will be challenging Suzuki for the NEVER Openweight Championship on November 5th in a Bull Rope match. He was attacked by the sadist before the bell and Suzuki-Gun take their opponnets to the outside, attacking them with chairs in typical Suzuki-Gun fashion. The match ended in a DQ when Suzuki refused to untie the bull rope wrapped around Yano’s neck. Yano is the perfect foil to the super serious Suzuki. They won’t give a great match in terms of workrate but there is little doubt it will be entertaining.

Before the start of the second half, a video is played of Jun Akiyama congratulating Nagata on his anniversary.

Tanahashi, Tenzan & Kojima def. Ibushi, Juice & Finlay @ 10:27
Ibushi and Tanahashi have a match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on November 5th. They kick off the match by trading holds and attempting to prove who is the superior grappler. The veteran team had control the majority of the match with a well-placed near falls for Finlay. Tanahashi and Ibushi had a fast-paced counter exchange of each other’s signatures but when push came to shove, Finlay ate the Cozy Lariat from Kojima, which ended the match. Very solid from start to finish, all six men knowing their place and delivering. Nothing to seek out but the best thing on the show to this point.

Naito, Evil, Sanada, Hiromu & Bushi def. Okada, Ishii, Sho, Yoh & Gedo @ 12:00
Okada came through the curtain hamming it up, walking through the crowd in an attempt to fire up the crowd which had been fairly silent for the majority of the show. When tagged in for the first time at the seven minute mark, Okada received the loudest reaction of the night. Hiromu and Yoh gave us a nice taste with a fluid exchange to a good reaction. Bushi hit Gedo with the MX and scored the win. Another solid match, just as good as the previous, but nothing big to recommend.

Yuji Nagata def. Manabu Nakanishi @ 17:47

The video package before the main event highlighted some previous singles matches between these two veterans. December of 2016 they met in a singles match at Korakuen Hall to a widely acclaimed match considering their age and mileage in the ring. The crowd popped the loudest of the night for the hometown boy, Nagata, as they held up their Blue Justice towels. Despite their friendship, Nakanishi made it known early that he wouldn’t be taking it easy on Nagata. They both fired up, grit their teeth and beat the hell out of each other. Nagata blistered Nakanishi with kicks all over his aged body and ordered him to fire back up. Nakanishi responded with a huge top rope Brainbuster followed by a Plancha which nearly took himself out. He then climbed to the top rope and drilled Nagata with a Dropkick. A slap battle occurred and Nagata crumpled. When Nakanishi brought him back to his feet, Nagata engaged him in another slap battle but again crumpled to the mat. In desperation, Nagata dodges a Lariat and connects with an Exploder Suplex. Always the crowd pleaser, we are treated with the Shirome to a big applause. He misses with a kick but Nakanishi still sells it like a true friend. Nagata takes them both to the top and hits another Exploder. Nakanishi kicks out of a Brainbuster at one! These two are going all out! Lifted for another Exploder, Nakanishi is finally dropped for the three. Considering their age (49 & 50 respectively) you couldn’t have asked for much better between these two. There were a few sloppy and dangerous spots but overall they were taking huge moves from the start and no-selling them like junior heavyweights. Easily the highlight of the show, as it was designed to be. They both were treated with framed pictures of career highlights and the face portion roster came to the ring to honor the two men. Everyone salutes in the middle of the ring and the commentators yell “Justice!” to end the show while Nagata fist bumps the fans who rush to the guardrail.

This was a show to highlight the career of Yuji Nagata and it succeeded in doing just that with his performance tonight. The man is a living legend who proves to this day, at the age of 49, he can still wrestle at a high level. Everything else was just there. Tanahashi and Ibushi shared several fun exchanges and Titan wowed with some flashy moves but other than that this night was to focus on Yuji Nagata. Definitely seek out the main event.

Robert McCauley is an NJPW enthusiast who has seen every show live since Jan. 4, 2015

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