The Reality of Wrestling: Shinsuke Nakamura, Unified IWGP Champion

The right move with a title that needs it

Sunday at Tokyo’s Sumo Hall, the IWGP 2nd and 3rd generation belts both came home as Shinsuke Nakamura unified the IWGP heavyweight title with a submission win against Kurt Angle. The match itself was quicker than most would have expected given the lengths of both men’s IWGP title matches at The Dome. In any cases, Nakamura now is the undisputed IWGP champion, Tomko & Bernard finally lost the IWGP tag belts and A.J. Styles lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi in the day’s other big singles match. Despite Christopher Daniels getting revenge on Wataru Inoue in a non-title match, I’m guessing the New Japan/TNA rivalry is done.

P.C. Says: Good call by New Japan, Nakamura/Nagata needs to be delayed until October or next January 4

Sadly, as is the case more times than not these days, a potentially bigger story loomed over Sunday’s Sumo Hall card for New Japan, and I’ll give you a hint: it had nothing to do with Nakamura’s big title win. The third big singles match of the show was scheduled to be Yuji Nagata taking on Hirooki Goto. The match itself was anticipated because it had the old/new feel and with both men putting on good performances as of late, it had the potential to be a show stealer. Sadly, it didn’t happen as the match was cancelled at the last minute. Instead of a member of talent missing their flight, this one was cancelled due to brain abnormalities found in Nagata’s head. He was advised against competing as they could be worsened with ring activity. All hopes are that this is nothing and will be taken care of with a little rest.

I have had my complaints about how the two IWGP belt situation was treated by New Japan, but at least the outcome of it all was in the right. Shinsuke Nakamura may not be the right man to hold the belt—I think Tanahashi is—at this moment, but he at least has two victories that will hopefully result in a title reign better than his other reign at the top. I do believe that Tanahashi is the right man because he would’ve been the perfect guy to elevate Nakamura up to the top tier again, but not yet. Since his return (and bulking up), Nakamura hasn’t really seemed to gain as much in the ring as was expected. On the other side, Tanahashi has been a very capable champion inside the ring and had a load of momentum with the Nagata trilogy this year. Since Nagata apparently couldn’t have had the belt for the Angle match January 4, I would’ve rather seen Tanahashi reign supreme so as a match with Nakamura later this year would be the coronation of another into New Japan’s top tier.

I’m also aware that this whole feud was (obviously) a TNA/New Japan joint venture. I think if the TNA aspect was taken out completely and it was Kurt Angle, freelancer, and not Kurt Angle, TNA star, then my idea for Nagata/Angle to be the unification match likely would’ve happened, but because it was New Japan versus TNA, consensus was to have the dream match, but no double-titles because in that case, Nagata would have had to win. Instead, Kurt gets the win to set up the Nakamura match. On the other side, I can see Nakamura as being a compromise between the two promotions as Tanahashi and Styles had a good match in TNA last year and since this show will likely be part of another Global iMPACT! special, they needed someone who would mesh better with Styles in New Japan’s heavyweight division. Looking at it that way Tanahashi was the best choice as Nakamura or Makabe wouldn’t have had much of a shot at putting on that show stealing type of match because of stylistic differences that none of them could’ve overcame in my opinion.

Why I suggested holding off the Nagata/Nakamura showdown—likely to be at the next big Sumo Hall show or somewhere close down the road—is because of the cancellation of Nagata’s match with Goto. It’s not as big a match that it couldn’t be done without, but if it’s a match of the year candidate, then that sets up a card with two big rematches from 2007—Tanahashi/Goto and Nakamura/Nagata. I’m aware that the Tanahashi/Goto title match didn’t draw at all, but that was because it was assumed that Goto wasn’t going to be a test and didn’t have as much momentum coming in as he would this time. And Nakamura/Nagata was reportedly one of the best matches of the whole G-1 tourney last year, and considering the circumstances behind the quick ending, a rematch is long overdue, but not long enough where you can’t make ’em wait just a little bit longer.

The Reality is…Nakamura has the belt. With the big issue being settled, the likelihood is that things in New Japan and TNA will return to normal (for each promotion), which is where it needs to be for both. While this rivalry was fun from an in-ring and spectacle point of view, both promotions have their own problems that they need to deal with without having to think about how a feud with an American (or Japanese) promotion is going to benefit both as fairly as possible. In the case of TNA, there are numerous problems (how their 2-hour show still feels like it’s one-hour, the elevation of wrestlers that still isn’t happening, the development of the women’s division, crappy angles, etc.) and while the New Japan feud was classic TNA (I mean that in a good way), hopefully the World X Cup and any continuation with New Japan can be on a smaller scale. Not to be against these two promotions swapping talent for cards (I’m not, believe me), but when you look at the final word (cash), the feud has only been able to produce inside the ring, which sadly hasn’t been able to help either promotion from a financial standpoint, something both promotions needed in this case.

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