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NJPW on AXS 7-16-15 report: Suzuki vs. Styles; Nakamura vs. Ishii

by Bryan Rose,

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Last week on New Japan on AXS, Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito squared off in a great battle that led to Natio getting the big win, revenge from the Tokyo Dome just a few months prior. This week is a special episode for Wrestling Observer subscribers, as not only are the matches from tonight’s show from the 2014 card of the year (G1 Climax Day 7) but we’ll also be seeing highlights from the 2014 match of the year, as AJ Styles takes on Minoru Suzuki. In the main event, we’ll see the best brawler Tomohiro Ishii take on Wrestler of the Year Shinsuke Nakamura. This is a show packed with Wrestling Observer award favorites, so it’s bound to be one hell of a show.

This took place August 1, 2014 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.

They first aired the AJ Styles/Minoru Suzuki match. This was somewhat clipped, but they spent a good amount of time airing most of the match. When first watching this match, I thought it was going to be a total styles clash (pun not entirely intended). But after watching this match, boy did this exceed any expectations I had. This was a white hot match with perfect psychology, great heat from the audience and the submission work by Suzuki was a big highlight of the match. The work on the fingers was amazing in particular - there’s no like Minoru Suzuki in pro wrestling in how he does so little but makes everything he does look incredible though facials and submissions. Not that Styles didn’t hold up his end of the game either - he was great in his role as the babyface fighting out of all of Suzuki’s submission work. Just a super match that deserves all the accolades it gets. AJ gets the win with the Styles Clash in an awesome match.

AJ says he can take his arm, but he can’t take his will. Suzuki says it’s not the end.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hirooki Goto aired next. This looked pretty good, though it was clipped more than the previous match. While I groaned last year that Tenzan was involved in the tournament since most of the year he’s nearing immobility, this is the time of the year where he really steps it up and it showed in this match, which again looked very good, but at the same time it’s also one of those matches that fall at the wayside from me since there’s so much good stuff in this tournament. Tenzan gets the submission with the anaconda vise.

Nakamura is interviewed. He said this match with Ishii was the first one where their skills were put to the test against each other, since they are in the CHAOS stable together and also tag team on occasion. He hurt his neck in the match last week against Honma, so he wanted to make sure his neck healed up before the G1. What he knows about Ishii is that his style is not straightforward, he works like he’s set to hurt himself facing larger opponents. Nakamura says he is better at controlling the rhythm of the match, but Nakamura has the better style.

The match aired. I liked this match a lot, though I think far and away the best match of the night was Suzuki/Styles. This was the headliner, however, so I get them airing this match in full. And there’s nothing to complain about regardless, as this was a fantastic match. This, again, was a styles clash sort of match, but that wasn’t my mindset going into the match. Rather, it was the match that told that story - Ishii wanted to do his style and be stiff and brutal. Nakamura relied on doing his strong style, which differs from Ishii’s more brutal style. It turned into a great back and forth battle because of this, and turned out to be a great match. Nakamura smashed Ishii with two boma yes, but he kicked out. Ishii was going for perhaps a lariat, but Nakamura stunned him with another boma ye and pinned him.

Ishii said even before the match he had a feeling he hadn’t felt in a while, because Nakamura was that kind of guy. He’s glad that they fought now, because 2 years ago it wouldn’t have been as special as this.Nakamura says they inspired each other, and to be in the same was great to be in the same ring as a great wrestler. He says today was the key match of the G1. They’ll fight again.

Upon reflection, Nakamura says it felt weird form the start to face him. Our performance kept accelerating as time went on. It was a tough match, but it was great to face him head on. He thought this would be arrogant to say, but he felt he got “into” Ishii that night, knew his emotions going into the match.

Another terrific show for this week, with all 3 bouts ranging from good to great to awesome. Next week, two of the biggest stars in New Japan will face off as Hiroshi Tanahashi will take on Shinsuke Nakamura as G1 24 rolls on.