Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs Hirooki Goto
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Fukuoka Convention Center, Fukuoka, Japan
The start of a nice little run with the IC belt for Goto, which I was very disappointed to see end after a few months with literally no other defenses than against Nakamura. I’m not actually even sure that I watched this when it aired, but I recall enjoying their two title matches following this, so I hope I have a good time watching it now. They start off with some grappling around on the ground, and Nakamura fairly easily kicks Goto’s legs out to nearly lock in a sleeper, and it’s clear that Nakamura’s clearly better in general throughout these opening spots. Goto kicks it into high gear and gets some strikes and a shoulderblock out that sends Nakamura outside, but Nakamura just shrugs it off, plays around with the crowd, rolls back in when Goto follows him. Goto’s clearly upset by these antics, and cuts Nakamura off when he goes back to roll out of the ring when Goto comes in after him, and the challenger knocks him around the ringside area. Nakamura reverses a whip and sends Goto into the guard rail, lays him across the announce table so that his torso is hanging off the rail, and gives him a running knee lift and kneedrop off the announce table. Goto makes it back in before the 20 count, and right into a chinlock from Nakamura. He fires back with some chops, but Nakamura puts him down with a knee and hits a standing kneedrop for two. The champ lays in some more knees in the corner and does his Vibration spot, but Goto ducks out of the way of the running high knee and floors him with a lariat out of a rope run spot. A big running spinning heel kick in the corner and a back suplex, with Nakamura fighting it well, gets Goto a two count. Both men trade strikes after Nakamura wriggles free from a German, and Goto’s throwing some pretty weak forearms here. Nakamura reverses a whip and hits a spinning back kick for a quick double down. The champ hits his typical shit, and Goto does well to fight through most of it, which I always appreciate. He sends Nakamura off the top to the outside with a spinning heel kick. Nice back and forth suplex spot over the ropes, teasing a suplex to the outside, and Nakamura wriggles out of a suplex back into the ring from Goto to lock in a sleeper, and Goto breaks it with an Angle Slam for two. The challenger hits what’s in all reality a fucking crazy spot with an Awful Waffle facebuster onto the knee (which I’m now finding out is apparently a semi-regular move called the reverse Ushigoroshi), and brings him down with the vanilla Ushigoroshi. Nakamura wriggles free from a suplex, ducks a line, and hits the lungblower and DND, setting up for the Boma Ye, but Goto flips him with a line when he comes charging in. Both men trade strikes on their knees, fighting to their feet. Goto eats a jumping kick out onto the apron after a rope run spot, and Nakamura goes for a DND over the ropes, but the challenger fights it and lariats him when he tries to come out on the apron, in a nice little environmental spot I really dig. Goto climbs the top and Nakamura meets him, but the challenger fights a superplex attempt and goes for the Kaiten, but Nakamura also fights it, and backdrops him off the ropes. Nakamura comes off the top with a Boma Ye, following it up with a sliding Boma Ye off the ropes for two. For the second time this match, they cut to the IC belt, and holy fuck this thing is so goddamn dirty. Nakamura goes into the corner, setting up another Boma Ye, but Goto ducks out of the way and hits a few headbutts, flooring Nakamura with a lariat when he fights back with a headbutt of his own, and gets a real, real close tow count off of it. Goto puts Nakamura up on the turnbuckle again and gets him up in a fireman’s carry, coming down with a semi-sloppy super Ushigoroshi, and Nakamura sells it big before kicking out at two. Could easily have been a shoot injury or something, but I don’t recall it being so, now that I’m reviewing this in January 2016. A Shouten Kai gets Goto the win in what sort of feels like a small finish, but I guess they’re saving bigger stuff for later. All in all, this was a lot of fun. Not particularly noteworthy or anything, but well paced (which is something I can’t say for a lot of big NJPW matches outside of Tanahashi’s bouts) and real back and forth, making Goto look like he’s on Nakamura’s level. I’m not sure that I can say Nakamura phoned it in here, which I often think is the case, but his usual problems are still present, like hitting the Boma Ye way too much, and going through the motions with most of his spots.