Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohoro Ishii
May 3, 2016
Fukuoka Kasai Center in Osaka, Japan
NJPW Wrestling Dontaku
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
This was the closest thing you’ll see to a modern day, old school NWA Ric Flair world title main event. There’s a lot of Flair in Tetsuya Naito in how he works, from the stalling and walking outside the ring to build drama and draw the match out. He’s become one of my favorite wrestlers, and Tomohiro Ishii was a good opponent for him because he works a different style.
Even though he was the heel, the crowd was supportive of Naito at first, but they got behind Ishii as the match wore on and Naito used a lot of heel tactics like spitting, chickensh*t retreats, and the always ridiculous ref bumps (three in this match alone). The match started slow but built perfectly, as world title matches are supposed to do.
Naito was excellent here, and Ishii did some great submissions. He also did this reverse brainbuster on Naito that I’ve never seen before and needs to be copied by someone soon, because it looked great. The selling here was also world class, and they slowed down the pace to where each move meant something and could be fully digested; basically a more athletic version of a Flair match circa 1986.
I hated the ref bumps and outside interference (Naito had Evil and Bushi while Ishii had Kazuchika Okada and Gedo), but once those four brawled to the back, it got really good. But those ref bumps need to go now because they really detract from matches like this, and the crowd hates them in that go-away kind of heat. Super match otherwise.