By R.W. Andrews
Part 4 – Disparate Paths
And here we are. Hiroshi Tanahashi has moved on from his feud with Satoshi Kojima, and Kojima is left to pick up the pieces of a second chance squandered. Nothing else needed to set it up. Let’s find out how they did.
Satoshi Kojima vs. Togi Makabe
Wrestling Dontaku at the Fukuoka International Center
May 3, 2011
Pay f—ing homage.
Finally, NJPW World gives us what we want…with a catch. No entrances, just a stream kicking in on a most curious moment – Kojima kicking Taichi in the gut and tossing him outside. Uhh, that’s no way to treat your young ward, Bub. Just sayin’. After the sempai/kohai relationship deteriorates right before our eyes, Kojima gets road-blocked by Makabe and two powerful shoulder tackles. And of course, it’s a Togi Makabe match, so…
Batsu Game! Slap to the chest by Makabe, slap by Kojima, slap by Makabe, slap by Kojima, another exchange before Makabe smacks Kojima into a backpedal, double middle fingers by Makabe with a loud “F— you” to boot, eye rake by Kojima to sneak out of the game. It’s not a win, but I love the out.
Kojima lobs Makabe’s thick frame outside, heading out to stomp him to the floor. Makabe eats the guardrail, but reverses a follow-up whip to stick Kojima damn near through the rail. He brings Kojima to the ramp, throwing out another family-friendly finger gesture, but gets force-fed a stiff ass lariat for the sportsmanship. Red Shoes has seen enough, ushering Kojima back to the ring so he can count out Makabe. Ahh, but Kojima doesn’t want the count-out, so he goes back out to Makabe, which causes Red Shoes to start another count out of pride. Kojima’s excursion is quick, gathering up his prey to roll him into the ring to a nice round of applause.
The gesture is greeted by a string of forearms, fired right back in kind to drop Makabe back to the mat. Never afraid of a rest hold, Kojima puts Makabe in a chinlock, then a camel clutch, much to the delight of no one. He clubs and stomps Makabe in the corner, giving his chest a little rosacea touch-up with some severely loud chops before tagging him with a lariat. As Makabe drops, the eagle takes flight with an elbow drop. A wounded eagle by the looks of the flight, but a successful landing nonetheless.
Makabe slaps the mat in frustration, growling with each punch bouncing off his temple as he tries to get up. His lariat attempt is for naught, but a follow-up powerslam snaps Kojima to the canvas. He hits a fireman’s carry driver (probably not the technical term), finally building up some offensive momentum by going coast to coast with lariats in the corner, non-forever edition. He provides another loud, “f— you”, before scoring with a beautiful Northern Lights suplex for two. His German Suplex attempt is blocked and countered with a DDT, but Makabe stands right back up, roaring with his arms spread at his sides! Kojima, staring down the barrel of impending doom, boots Makabe in the gut and hits a stunner!
He keeps the pressure on, banging the back of Makabe’s neck against his knee with a modified neckbreaker before getting that big frame up for a brainbuster, covering for two. After tossing Makabe into the corner, he perches him up top and hits a fall-away neckbreaker! He’s pulling everything out just to keep Makabe from pawing at him! He signals for a lariat, peeling off his elbow pad as the crowd perks up, but as he hits the ropes the unstoppable monster chases right after him and blasts him with a counter-lariat!
Both men crawl to the center of the ring, a twinkle in Makabe’s eyes at the sight of a Batsu Game. Overhand right by Makabe, overhand right by Kojima, overhand by Makabe, overhand by Kojima, overhand by Makabe, another by Kojima as both men rise to their feet, they swap another four-strike salvo before Makabe’s fifth swing leaves Kojima in a daze, “F— you” screams Makabe with two middle fingers at point blank range, lariat by Makabe, Makabe swings again but his arm is picked off by a Kojima lariat, dueling lariats connect with jarring impact, Makabe drops to his knees before crashing to the mat face-first, leaving Kojima the last man standing and the winner of one hell of a game!
With Makabe showing off his impressive slasher flick trait of always coming back for more, Kojima runs up behind him and plows into the back of Makabe’s skull with a sick lariat! He signals for the end with a throat slash, once again hitting the ropes as Makabe begins to rise. He runs straight into a chop to the throat, his body whipped to the mat after Makabe’s sidearm double-axe handle cracks into his chest cavity!
Makabe lands a lariat before echoing Kojima’s sentiment with a throat slash. He picks Kojima up and roughs him into the turnbuckle pad with his back turned. He heads up and locks his ankles between the ropes for liftoff before driving Kojima’s head into the top of the ring post. His arms latch around Kojima’s waist, buckling him up tightly to launch him backwards with a spider suplex that dumps him on the top of his head! Makabe yells to the crowd as he repositions himself high on the top rope, leaping out and coming down full-force with a King Kong Kneedrop. Red Shoes is already in position for the count as Makabe covers the lifeless husk of the former champion. 1, 2, Kojima ain’t moving.
Winner: Togi Makabe.
After the match, Makabe reaches out to shake Kojima’s hand. The gesture is judged and deemed beneath the fallen warrior, greeted by walking away. The action garners a smirk from Makabe, who extends his middle finger towards Kojima’s back before taking his leave. A quick-cut shows Kojima in the corner as Taichi and Taka Michinoku enter the ring. Taichi, all hopped up on getting embarrassed in front of the crowd, gives the boss the business over getting pinned clean in the middle of the ring. Completely decimated by the mounting losses, a once proud champion just gives up and walks away. But he’s not going far. With his back turned, Taichi finally lashes out, clubbing Kojima on the back as Taka kicks him to the mat. It was exactly what Kojima needed to get back in the swing of things, his forearm denting in his insolent charge’s faces. Red Shoes wants no part of getting caught in the crosshairs, giving the men plenty of space by gawking from the apron.
As Kojima uses Taka and Taichi as punching bags, a figure runs out from the back as the crowd squeals. It’s Minoru Suzuki, his agile frame sliding under the ropes with that sinister expression teetering on chaotic-evil. He clamps down on Kojima with a sleeper as Taichi and Taka come back for seconds. As does Makabe, sprinting back to clear Taichi and Taka from the ring. Suzuki dumps Kojima to the mat as the crowd stirs at the sight of him and Makabe squaring up. Suzuki smirks at the challenge before licking his finger and pointing it at the uncaged animal. He takes his leave as a middle finger is presented to his back. Taichi returns the favor as he and Taka follow their new boss up the ramp.
Suzuki-Gun is born in the ashes of Kojima’s fall from grace.
Reticulating Splines (Completely SFW, I promise)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Wrestling Dontaku at
May 3, 2011
It’s the man who brought me back into wrestling with his sensational match with Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 9. That’s who the hell I’m about to watch. And that theme. My God! Yeah, yeah, the crowd loves to “oh, oh, ooh” along to his current theme and completely ruin it, but his New Japan theme? Heavenly. The man of the hour is sporting quite the poofy hairstyle for the event, along with a cut-off peace symbol shirt and black pants. He looks great, making me wonder yet again if I’m missing out by not watching his WWE stuff. Probably not.
Continuing the battle of theme songs that no longer exist, Tanahashi is out to a deafening scream the moment he parts the curtains. One guy foghorns above the rest with a sound akin to getting shivved in the kidney. When Red Shoes takes the title from around Tanahashi’s waist, he hugs it close, bestowing upon it a loving look before displaying it to Nakamura. It was a weird occurrence, but damn if Red Shoes doesn’t make that title seem like the Holy Grail.
Ok, real quick. I wasn’t sure during the Kojima/Makabe match, but there is a young lion at ringside who looks just like Bad Luck Fale, or bad rack Whare for those with NJPW World. He looks a lot slimmer, but that sour punim. I’m pretty sure that I’m looking at Young Lion Fale.
Back on task, a loud Tanahashi chant sweeps across the arena when the bell rings. Red Shoes doesn’t want to step on the champion’s toes, but he does give a little “come on, fight” hand gesture as Tanahashi soaks in the sound. After a very cautious feeling out process, Nakamura tries to work through Tanahashi’s guard, getting close enough to make the champ bust free with a sudden jolt that causes Red Shoes to leap onto the second turnbuckle. He’s pumped for this one. They exchange standing switches and wrist locks before Tanahashi wins the reversal war with a side-headlock at the ropes. Red Shoes calls for the break, a clean one that elicits a rousing response from the crowd.
Both men combine powers to paint a masterpiece on the canvas with extremely adept mat wrestling, once again ending with Red Shoes breaking them apart at the ropes. Annnnd not clean. Tanahashi, the champion and all-around great guy, cheap shots Nakamura with a slap to the face. Nakamura squints at him before delivering a forearm to the jaw and repeated knees to the gut. Tanahashi catches Nakamura with an elbow off the whip before scoring with a crossbody. Nakamura is up immediately, chopping Tanahashi on the neckline to ground him before punting him in the face. Tanahashi gets up to challenge the strike, but another knee to the gut pays off his debt for the cheap shot.
A basement dropkick to the knee sends Nakamura outside, giving Tanahashi a clear runway to take flight on the apron with a front flip that smooshes him to the floor. Both men scurry back in, where the focus is put squarely on Nakamura’s knee through a series of elbows. The announcer mentions the Bomaye, his keen eye catching the defensive strategy at play. A mini-Batsu breaks out, ended swiftly by a kick to Nakamura’s knee. But Nakamura wants another, a forearm to forearm standoff that is once again cut short by a kick to the knee – Tanahashi smartly putting strategy above pop. He tries to rush in on Nakamura, his body quickly caught and placed on the top rope. Nakamura steps back to eye up the shot, his long limbs covering the distance in seconds to drive his knee into Tanahashi’s stomach. I like the step-back rush way better than the silly twinkle-toes rollback rush I saw him do in NXT, but that’s just my own personal taste.
Red Shoes drops to the mat with Tanahashi, seemingly sharing in his pain as he mirrors the groggy sway Tanahashi does as he holds his ribs. Nakamura breaks up the mirror moment with a knee driven down on Tanahashi’s ribs, multiple times over. After punting Tanahashi to the apron, Nakamura slides out to ring the champ’s temple with a knee before hopping on the apron to drop a knee on the back of his head. He rolls back in and stands on Tanahashi’s throat as you can just make out Fale/Possibly Not Fale studying that particular move from the bottom left corner of the screen. Red Shoes comes over to admonish Nakamura, but he is met with a laid back head shake. “1, 2, 3-“ Red Shoes fires off like the rounds of Gatling gun, finally getting Nakamura to let his hero free. No home cooking here. None whatsoever. Pay no attention to the stovetop.
Nakamura’s knee strikes continue from a guillotine choke before spinning Tanahashi into a sleeper hold, their bodies crashing to the mat as Nakamura wraps his legs around Tanahashi’s waist. Tanahashi scoots and squirms along the mat, his left boot just managing to tap the bottom rope for a break. Nakamura goes right back to the sleeper, transitioned to an exploder that’s countered mid-air by Tanahashi to drive Nakamura’s skull to the mat. “Aaaah,” the crowd exclaims as Tanahashi looks on with a prideful gaze at what he managed to pull off.
Tanahashi scores with a flying forearm before body-slamming the challenger in position for a second rope front-flip senton for two. He unloads a right hook to the body/forearm/European uppercut combo, a flurry answered by a boot to the jaw and a stiff knee to the rib cage. A second strike is caught and countered with a Dragon Screw Leg Whip, those long limbs the perfect lever for Tanahashi to cross over and turn into a Cloverleaf, but also the perfect arm length to reach for an easy rope break.
Nakamura boots Tanahashi so hard that he sends him sliding across the mat and into the corner. He sets up for the Bomaye, but Tanahashi counters with a Slingblade, a counter countered with an exploder! Lovely! Nakamura again rushes in for a Bomaye, and again a counter Slingblade is offered in response, this time scoring to leave both men gasping for air on the mat. Tanahashi is first to rise, wrapping up Nakamura on his ascent for a straitjacket suplex. Nakamura tries in vain to squirm free, his final option a brutal one as he throws his head back and tags Tanahashi square in the face. Tanahashi smacks him for it, gaining back his ground to hit a bridging straitjacket suplex for two. He follows with a Falcon Arrow, once again getting a two from Red Shoes. Searching for anything to get him the hell out of there with the title in tow, he heads up top for a High Fly Flow. His body crashes to the mat as Nakamura moves out of the way, then his head gets blown the f-k up with a Bomaye! But Nakamura can’t find the strength to cover, his eyes flitting about the lights as Red Shoes gives his arm a little brush.
Finally up, Nakamura drives his knee into the side of Tanahashi’s head, violently popping him in the temple as the champion curls into a ball. Nakamura calls for another Bomaye, waiting for Tanahashi to get to his knees before bursting towards him. His strike sails high as Tanahashi bridges back, his overstep leaving him susceptible to a desperation roll-up. With Red Shoes barreling in to count, Nakamura counters with a cross-arm breaker, the pain jolting Tanahashi with so much current that he flops to his feet with Nakamura’s shoulders down. 1, 2, Nakamura drives his body in the other direction, the cross-arm breaker still latched on as Tanahashi tries to wriggle away. He curls his bicep and clasps his fingertips together as Nakamura gives one last powerful heave to finally straighten the arm. As Red Shoes excitedly points with both hands that the move is applied, the momentum carries Tanahashi close enough to the ropes to escape.
Nakamura staggers to his feet, striking Tanahashi with three brutal kicks to the arm. Tanahashi manages to slip in a kick to Nakamura’s knee, both men doubling over and clutching their bodies. Tanahashi rushes in with a lariat, throwing caution to the wind to decapitate Nakamura, but the Matrix comes alive mid-ring as the challenger bends backwards, his arms snagging ahold of Tanahashi to drag him to the mat. But Tanahashi blocks his progress, quickly strapping back Nakamura’s arms in a full nelson and banging him to the mat with a bridging Dragon Suplex for two and change!
Tanahashi exhaustedly works his way to the corner, falling to his knees before rolling outside and climbing to the top rope. He takes flight, connecting on a High Fly Flow to Nakamura’s back. Tanahashi heads back for a second round, a trip absolutely destroyed mid-air as Nakamura rises to hammer Tanahashi in the face on his descent! F—ing awesome, though the crowd boos the move unmercifully. Ahh, what the hell do they know? The camera switches to a better shot than Tanahashi/Kojima II, catching an amazing moment of Nakamura lying on his back, Tanahashi crumpled in a heap behind him, and Red Shoes sitting on the mat like he’s sunning at the beach in the horizon! That image will never be topped.
Nakamura eyes up a vicious strike as Tanahashi gets to his feet – a right kick ducked, a follow-through back kick ducked, but a counter forearm connecting to allow a third kick to connect solidly! Nakamura climbs to the second rope, waiting for Tanahashi to rise before leaping off. His flying knee gets dropkicked right out of the air! Tanahashi glides to the top rope, hitting a standing High Fly Flow before reaching hyper-drive to zoom back up and navigate another High Fly Flow right in the drop zone! He covers as Red Shoes dives to the mat, the ref’s excited hand striking thrice to end a stellar, stellar, f—ing STELLAR match!
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi retains the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
After the match, Nakamura gets up and stares at Tanahashi for a beat before sliding under the bottom rope and taking the long trek to the back. He peers over his shoulder before disappearing, a smile on his face as he watches Tanahashi clutch his ribs in the ring. And then, let the parade of gifts commence! Tanahashi stands before a slew of gift-givers – collecting a placard from a redshirt, a trophy from what I can only describe as Japanese Stephen King, another placard, ANOTHER trophy complete with a handshake, an even larger cup trophy, and finally the title belt snuggly strapped around his waist by Red Shoes.
What a juxtaposition in fortunes between the former champion and the current one.
Impressions: Tanahashi/Nakamura did not disappoint. The match was wrestled at the lofty levels you would expect, but oddly it was not even close to as good as Tanahashi/Kojima II. I was honestly expecting this match to surpass it, but it just came up short. That being said, go out of your way to check it out. Especially if you’ve seen enough of Nakamura’s paint by numbers matches in WWE. Brutal shots, intense grappling, and amazing counters. And my God, People. Hiroshi Tanahashi is just an amazing wrestler. Another performance stretching the limits of superlatives from one of the best wrestlers I have ever seen.
Satoshi Kojima did everything I was hoping for and more. The guy I see today is good, don’t get me wrong. But the guy back then was a whole different beast. Yes, I understand that age and opponent plays a huge part in that, but I have come away so impressed by the man himself. He has a straight run-and-gun style – hitting high impact moves and constantly looking for the lariat to incapacitate an opponent and hit the showers. I love that, never once finding myself thinking that he was boring or predictable. I especially fell in love with his top-rope elbow. That thing is a joy to behold. His performances as a whole have left me wanting to see more of his work, so mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned.
There’s really not much to type about Hiroshi Tanahashi that hasn’t been typed before. I came into this knowing that I loved the guy – his flair for the dramatic, his flair for amazing entrances, and his flair for taking the collective breath of the crowd away at any given moment are all things that drew me in right off the bat. I really enjoy going back and piecing together all of these things that I’ve missed over the years, and my guess is that as I uncover feud after feud featuring Hiroshi Tanahashi, that I won’t find a bad performance. But that’s just a guess. You bet your ass I’m going to keep looking just to see if I can come across one. I might as well have a ball combing through the catalogue while searching.
There is absolutely nothing to say about Togi Makabe – pay homage – and Shinsuke Nakamura as far as guys who are new to me. Nakamura brought me back into wrestling and Togi Makabe was discovered long ago with his amazing, incredible, punishing feud with Tomohiro Ishii – pay homage. I’m looking forward to actually doing a proper feud article on Shinsuke Nakamura, and to be honest I may have already found it. I’ll try to search around for something a little different, though I doubt I will find anything better than Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Speaking of which…
Coming Soon – I have no idea. I am taking a little time off from wrestling to study for a massive exam coming quicker by the day. It’s amazing, as at this time last year I was studying my ass off for a career-heightening exam. One year later, another exam. You see that carrot dangling in the distance? Yeah, me too. Let’s go out and get it.
A Friendly Game of Mishegoss
Fantasy football is fun. My team is unstoppable. I don’t hope yours is. And on that note, enjoy the dulcet tones of my man Lamar Latrelle to close this series out. Be good to one another.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest James Storm, who discusses being part of NWA Powerrr, studio wrestling, past issues with Billy Corgan, his brief stay in NXT and why he hasn't returned, his eight-day title reign as the TNA/Impact Wrestling World Champion, and much more...