NJPW Wrestling World 2004 – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Note: This article was written in 2017
2004: Shinsuke Nakamura © vs Yoshihiro Takayama © – IWGP Heavyweight and NWF Heavyweight title unification match
Wrestling World 2004 (attendance: 40,000)
After re-establishing the NWF Heavyweight title a year ago, here we are back in the Tokyo Dome to unify it with the IWGP Heavyweight title. After defeating Tsuyoshi Kohsaka last year, Yoshihiro Takayama has had successful defences of the NWF title against the following; Ryushi Yanagisawa, Scott Norton, Takeshi Rikio (at a Pro Wrestling NOAH event), Yuji Nagata (a match in which he won Nagata’s IWGP title), Shinsuke Nakamura, Tadao Yasuda and Minoru Suzuki.
Takayama’s IWGP Heavyweight title reign began when he defeated Nagata in May 2003 and after successful defences against Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Masahiro Chono, ended at the hands of Tenzan in November. Tenzan would then lose it on his first defence to Shinsuke Nakamura.
Shinsuke Nakamura began his training at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo in March 2002 and after impressing, made his debut in August. The “Super Rookie” was considered to be one of the new Three Musketeers alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata. After a somewhat successful (2-1(1) at this stage, added another win after this) foray into MMA Nakamura managed to defeat Tenzan for the IWGP title as mentioned above, and in doing so became the youngest wrestler to hold that title – a record he still holds.
This is the first January 4 Tokyo Dome show that is recorded in widescreen.
The competitors are introduced, Takayama first which shows that the IWGP Heavyweight Championship is of a higher status and will be the title that the NWF title is unified into. Up next is the future King of Strong Style, a drastically different looking Shinsuke Nakamura. This is from before he found his charisma and grew his hair out. He’s also 5 days removed from going three rounds to a no contest with Alexey Ignashov where it looks like he may have been punched in the face once or twice.
The bell rings and Nakamura is straight out of the gates with a double leg takedown and goes straight for a Koji Kanemoto style grapevine ankle lock. Takayama gets to the ropes. Takayama already has a win over Nakamura from back in June so Nakamura is looking to put this one away early. They’re both back up and circling to lock up, Nakamura feigns another double leg. They lock fingers on one hand and it’s Takayama this time who catches Nakamura by surprise with a kick. Goes for a headlock which Nakamura brings to a wrist lock, then a hammerlock. Takayama comes out with a drop toe hold taking it to the mat, grabbing a headlock and then bringing it back up. They’re against the ropes and referee Red Shoes Unno has to work for a clean break. Nakamura goes low again but Takayama catches him and the two grapple for a bit, each attempting holds but not locking anything properly before Nakamura settles on a leglock. Rolled to the ropes and Takayama clubs Nakamura. He then catches him flush with a kick to the face.
Nakamura gets himself back together and then the two meet in centre ring again. Nakamura tries an armbar but doesn’t get it. Takayama tries a headlock and Nakamura ends up with a sleeper hold. Takayama tries to through him off but he keeps hold as the roll through. Nakamura with the grapevine but Takayama gets the ropes. Belly to belly from Nakamura with a cover for nothing. Waistlock from Nakamura and he eventually gets Takayama up for a German suplex. Takayama bounces back and comes in with a kick the Nakamura catches and then uses his positioning to turn it into a powerbomb. Nakamura in with a Shining Wizard set up to a triangle choke. A unique way of getting there. The Shining Triangle is what he calls it. The much bigger Takayama just picks him and drops him. That’ll break the hold. A grounded Nakamura is now open to be stomped. And Takayama goes back to the face which is super effective against the Super Rookie. Big boot to the face sends him outside.
Takayama drops him face first across the guard rail and then sends him into the ring post. A barrage of offence follows. Throws him back and continues to treat him with utter disdain. This fires Nakamura up and he fired back with some forearms. We look prime for another Takayama/Frye style throwdown but another targeted shot to the face ends that. Takayama goes to kick the fallen man but Nakamura ducks it and fires back up with some forearms and knees. Even throws a few punches in, but doesn’t block the single straight right to the face which floors him. The seated position is perfect for Takayama to deliver some overhead elbows to the face. Nakamura struggles to get up and attempts something, but just opens up for a big knee to the face. A few more stomps and another straight right. This ring is covered in blood from a match earlier on in the night (Yuji Nagata vs Kensuke Sasaki) and the way Takayama’s going it’s just a matter of time before Nakamura contributes. Club, kick, stomp. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Nakamura tries in vein to go for Takayama’s leg to mount something of a comeback but Takayama knows the button he’s got to press to reset it.
A burst of energy from Nakamura catches Takayama in a triangle choke, the bigger man tries to slam him from it again but Nakamura rolls it through to a cross armbar. Takayama gets him on his shoulders and Nakamura is forced to break the hold otherwise he’s pinned. (2 count). Nakamura’s fired up now and rushes right into Takayama. Correction; rushes right into the knee of Takayama. He’s out. Takayama mounts a cover for the 1, 2, – oh not quite! A late kickout from Nakamura showing some fighting spirit. Getting a shoulder up is about all the spirit he had though as with Takayama in a mount position, he’s defenceless against an onslaught of strikes. Red Shoes has had enough! He pulls Takayama up and reminds him of the rules. I think he’s talking about the one where you’re not supposed to punch a defenceless opponent in the face several times. Better late than never on the closed fist.
This of course serves to buy Nakamura the time to get to his feet. That’s all he does as Takayama rushes him with a flying knee (to the face) and follows it up with a dropkick to the seated IWGP champion. Red Shoes is fine with this. Takayama drags him (Nakamura) out to the middle of the ring and Nakamura tries some forearms out of desperation. They barely connect and when he drops to his knees, Takayama puts one of his own back into the face. Nakamura can’t have too much left here at all, he’s taken an absolute pounding from the NWF champ. Nakamura stands back up, where Takayama is waiting for him with a backdrop.
Another backdrop and that’s triggered something within Nakamura (who by this stage is very close to being referred to as ‘the victim’). A little bit of fire and a few slaps, but targeted facial attacks put out that fire. It takes quite a few though and Red Shoes jumps in to get Takayama away so he can start counting and put an end to this.
He gets to 5 and Nakamura gets up, holding on and possibly pleading for this not to be thrown out. While he’s been fighting just to stand, Takayama has been chilling in the corner getting some wind back and from that point he charges Nakamura with yet another knee sending him down. Takayama covers him and it’s time to put this away. 1. 2. What?! Another miraculous kickout by Nakamura! Takayama picks him up, gives him a knee strike for something different and it’s the Everest German Suplex! Nakamura kick out at 1! And then grabs a kimura. He’s got it locked tight and puts everything he has into it. It’s enough! He’s somehow fought from behind and defeated the beast.
Your winner, IWGP Heavyweight and final NWF Heavyweight champion, in 13 minutes and 55 seconds – Shinsuke Nakamura!