In honor of what is literally the biggest wrestling rumor since that one time Dave Meltzer tried to trick everyone CM Punk was coming back and then the WWE had to play his music just to get the entire city of Chicago to shut the fuck up, we went with our second straight NJPW match. This one features the rumored-to-be-US-bound Shinsuke Nakamura — who has been described as, among other things “a foppish, world-weary thug in a drum major’s jacket who prances to the ring like Michael Jackson, prisoner of his gift […} deep inner struggle is etched into his expressive features.” in a performance for the ages against the transcendent high flyer Kota Ibushi.
Much like yesterday’s match, this is one of the peaks of a very specific type of professional wrestling: Japanese strong style. Even more so than Ishii-Makabe, these two embody the possibilities of both the genre and the medium, pushing and pulling at the seams of the ring-as-performance space. As Nick put it last year:
“Ultimately, the truly transcendent moments of this match came towards the end, as business began to pick up (which JR ironically did not, at least to my recollection say at any point) and the match finished on a exhilarating back-and-forth that left nearly everyone gasping for air out of excitment. While many will point to the final match on the card as the diamond in its crown, this feels like the match that will stick me with longest, and not just because (unlike the main event) it told an entire self-contained story that left me wishing for more, or because of the bonafide star (in my heart, and even in the hearts of other significantly more familiar with him) it made of Ibushi even in defeat. It’s that this match reminds you not what professional wrestling should be, but what it can be.”
And while this match may not even be either performer’s finest hour, it’s probably the best 29 minutes or so you’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. Today, at least.