Dave Meltzer's top-rated matches of 2017: Naito vs. Tanahashi

Editor's Note: Every day this week, we'll take you back to one of Dave Meltzer's top-rated matches of the past year, starting with No. 10 and going through No. 1. What follows is an edited version of Dave's writeup of that match from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
NJPW G1 Climax A Block Finals | August 11
*****

Tetsuya Naito pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 26:42 to win the A block

This was fantastic storytelling. As compared with a lot of the guys in the tournament having great matches, this was safer and more of a work of art that a car crash action movie (not that car crash action movies aren’t art in a different way).

For purposes of the match, it was Tanahashi with the bad right arm and Naito somewhat selling the shoulder. Tanahashi also had a knee and a rib injury by this point, but that didn’t play into the match. Tanahashi started stomping Naito when he did the tranquillo pose. Tanahashi came off the ropes with a crossbody into a dropkick to the bad biceps. Naito started working on the right arm. Tanahashi did the high fly flow to the floor and again started selling the arm. He went for the Texas cloverleaf, but the idea was that with his weakened biceps, he couldn’t get it. The crowd was super hot at this point.

He went for a dragon screw but Naito started punching the biceps and snapped his arm over the top rope, followed up by a slingshot dropkick to the arm. Tanahashi came back with a straitjacket German suplex. From superplex position, Naito started working for a Kimura and then hit a top rope Frankensteiner, which Tanahashi turned into a sunset flip and then hit a dragon screw. Naito used a German suplex. Later, Tanahashi used two sling blades and a crossbody off the top, but missed a high fly flow.

Naito had some offense and then came the highlight. Tanahashi finally got the Texas cloverleaf, but Naito struggled to the ropes. Referee Red Shoes Unno told Naito he was going to stop it, which meant more because of the Sabre-Ishii finish. Just as Unno went to stop it, Naito made the ropes. The intensity was tremendous here.

Naito came back with a tornado DDT and a Destino off the top rope that Tanahashi kicked out of. Naito tried another Destino but Tanahashi hit two Twist And Shouts. Naito reversed the third into a destino, then hit a second one and got the pin.

This wasn’t the best tournament match for flashy moves, but for psychology, it beat everything up to this point.

*****

Previous Matches:

- Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak
- WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr.