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Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW, 11/5/17)

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I can't remember if this match was better than their G1 Climax bout...I think I'd give the nod to this one based on some of the rectifications from their first match.  A lot of "your good, I'm better, no, wait, I'm the best"-ing around to open before Tanahashi settles into to working Ibushi's leg in classic Tanahashi fashion. You know, lots of legwhips. One area that was a marked improvement from the G1 match-up was Ibushi's selling. When he tries to get fresh with his standing moonsault, his leg gives out on the landing when Tanahashi rolls out of the way. Tanahashi, working that veteran ace style, does a good job of cutting off Ibushi's momentum by targeting the injured leg but Ibushi gets his comeback in the form of a somersault kick that stuns Tanahashi, allowing a run of offense that includes a lawn dart in the corner and a swan-dive German suplex. Unsurprisingly, the highlight of the match for me was that pissy slap, palm thrust, boot exchange, with Ibushi seizing Red Shoes' wrist and continuing to snap off kicks at Tanahashi in the corner like a shithead. Overall, a simple story with good selling, a few fiery exchanges, and enough big spots to satisfy without becoming too self-indulgent.

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One of the best NJPW matches this year. Great escalation with Tanahashi gradually working over the leg before Ibushi would mount his comebacks. And while Ibushi is pretty famous for no-selling damage to his legs, it never seemed excessive or forgetful. Really more like he was dealing with but managing to find a way to overcome the damage. Tanahashi did some solid heeling here as well. And despite both men being faces, they really sold the contempt they had for each other with the vicious slap and strike sequences at the end.

 

Excellent match and low-end MOTYC with Tanahashi proving that even at 41 years-old and one arm, is still one of the best big match wrestlers in the world.

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I really loved this bout.  ****3/4 for me.  I thought that it was one of the best Kota Ibushi performances I've seen.  Everything had a purpose and told a story.  Everything made sense and I thought both of them worked the match perfectly.  It definitely seemed like Ibushi was finding ways to overcome the leg damage, and I really enjoyed it.  I also liked the finish... It wasn't too excessive, it was just right. 

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IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi - NJPW 11/5/17

 

First Fifteen Minutes: Tanahashi 101 in all its glory. I could watch Tanahashi do his thing forever. It is such great meat & potatoes pro wrestling. It is all set up by a very even start on the mat. Ibushi thinks he as an opening for his Triple Jump Moonsault to the outside, but it is way too early for that. He comes down and BAM Tanahashi dropkicks his knee while Ibushi is on the apron. Great transition. Great selling from Ibushi. It is classic Tanahashi legwork. There is a great spot where Tanahashi misses an elbow drop then Ibushi does the whiff kick and goes for the standing moonsault, but Tanahashi moves and he drops down straight leg on his knees and then does a great sell. Another great spot is when Tanahashi goes for that classic baseball slide and Ibushi instead hits a double stomp. Good Ibushi fire while still selling the leg on his dropkicks and kicks. Frankensteiner sends Tanahashi out now he hits the moonsault to the floor. Tanahashi gets the dragon leg whip in the ropes. Deep Texas Cloverleaf and Ibushi makes the ropes. This is just great classic pro wrestling. It is something Tanahashi truly excels at. Ibushi is striking the right balance between selling and not dying with good hope spots. Very solid thus far.

 

Final Fifteen Minutes: Ibushi keeps going for bombs too early. Here is a German from the apron back into the ring. Tanahashi fights out this leaves him prey to the dragon leg screw in the ropes. HIGH FLY FLOW TO THE OUTSIDE! I love that spot so much because he is lands so high up on the body. Tanahashi goes for the High Fly Flow in the ring, but Pele Kick knocks him loopy. Now it is time to go for bombs: Top Rope Frankensteiner. HE LAUNCHES TANAHASHI LIKE A LAWN DART INTO THE TURNBUCKLES. Crazy spot! He gets that German he was looking for. Phoenix Splash for the win??? Crashes and burns. Really damn good strike exchange. Those slaps were great and varied they told a great story of Tanahashi trying to demoralize the defiant Ibushi and Ibushi trying to stand up to the Ace. One of the best strike exchanges I have ever seen. Ibushi hits a Last Ride. There is a weird miscoummunication. Tanahashi gets the Sling Blade, Dragon Suplex and two High Fly Flows to capture the win.

 

Just a great Tanahashi outing. His formula executed perfectly, Ibushi made mistakes going for big moves early. He would get the big moves later which showed he needed patience. Ultimately, Phoenix Splash miss did him in and even though he remained defiant, Tanahashi was the one who strung together his winning combination to take the match. Stellar match. ****1/4

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