Friday's matches took place February 14, 2015 in Sendai, continuing our New Beginnings coverage.
First up is an NWA Jr. title match between Jushin Thunder Liger, reigning champion, against challenger and former champion Chase Owens.
This was only about five or so minutes overall and was cut for time. Just a match. Liger is good, but can only do so much at this point. He’s good at what he can do. Owens is okay but nothing he does stands out, at least not in this match. He fits in well in New Japan but only just fits in, nothing more. Liger scores a phantom clutch hold for the win.
Owens says he might have gotten the 123, but this isn’t the last time you’ve seen this face, or the last time he’ll get a shot at the Junior heavyweight title.
It was shown in between commercials that AXS TV will air the five WrestleKingdom 9 shows on New Year’s Day.
We follow that up with a NWA World Heavyweight title match between NWA Champion Rob Conway and Hiroyoshi Tenzan
I remember this match live, and it was awesome. Not because of the work in the match itself - while it was fine, it wasn’t the highlight of the match. It was the crowd. Even in 2015 where the NWA title doesn’t mean a whole lot, people wanted Tenzan to win the NWA title that night, and they let themselves be heard. They were super into the match, and freaked out when he finally won the title. He headbutted NWA manager/President Bruce Tharpe three times, busting him open and sending him to the outside. He followed with the moonsault and pinned Conway to win the NWA title.
Tenzan thanks the fans for supporting him during the match and asks for their support in the future.Conway says he was cheated. He is the NWA He will be back for what is his.
Time for the main event, and thus we get an interview with one of the challengers. This week, it’s Yuji Nagata. He talks about how he and other wrestlers back in his day set the standard by having everyone wanting to compete for the title, including those outside of wrestling. Nakamura has done similar things with the Intercontinental title, and Nagata is amazed how he wrestles in his own world. His match with Ibushi intrigued him, and now wants to prove he can still bring his own form of wrestling to the table.
Shinsuke Nakamura defending the Intercontinental title against Yuji Nagata was next.
This was pushed like the old veteran getting the title shot as the rest of his colleagues from his era (Tenzan, Kojima, Nakanishi) were all in his corner. Overall, it was a nice back and forth match, but something just felt missing that didn’t make it stand out from normal New Japan main events.. I think it’s more of the style than anything. In the great Yuji Nagata matches I’ve seen in the last few years, they were awesome, stiff back and forth matches with some of the top talent in New Japan like Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata. This wasn’t it. Everything they did looked good, and the crowd was into it for the most part, but this was just a back and forth match. It seemed like they were starting to do the hot nearfalls that you’d usually see in a New Japan main event after Nagata kicked out of one boma ye, but then Nakamura laid out Nagata with another and pinned him out of nowhere. No one felt ready for the finish, it was pretty weird.
Nakamura says he wants to show respect by saying welcome to the world where everything is accepted. Okay. It was a whole new Nagata that made him boil over. Nagata says backstage that Nakamura was stronger than him. It would have been cool if he won, but today, Nakamura was stronger. He asks Nogami. He says he has a big dream now, and he is glad people backed him up. He’ll keep on fighting.
In his reflective interview, he says he should have fought him on the ground a little longer. He felt the audience still felt he had it. He wanted to pull Nakamura into his own wrestling style, but he couldn't\, so that’s why he lost. He says his son told him good luck next time. All this was only possible by his fans supporting him.
Overall a fine show, but there have been better. The Jr. title match was okay, the NWA title match was cool, and so was the main event, but there have been better main events.