Versus: Shinsuke Nakamura

Over on Social, I was talking to some recently folks about my love of wrestling. Yes, I am HUGE fan of wrestling. It's not quite up there with my love of other sports, but the commitment they have to industry despite it's many difficulties is really inspiring. And you know, just watching a fool get three amigo'ed into submission is just cool to watch.

Anyway, the homie Tyler brings up Shinsuke Nakamura, who just so happens to be one of my favorite in ring performers of not only the moment, but just in general and his amazing match with the Phenomenal One aka Bangs McMasters aka A.J. Styles. I mention that Nakumara has a gang of classic matches, so he asks me to name some of my favorites.

Admittedly it's an impossible task to rank Nakamura's matches because he's been in so many bangers, but I'm not going be chump about it. So, as requested, here are my five favorite matches featuring the King of Strong Style

La Sombra, May 2013 Mexico City

I love this match for a few reasons. One it features one of Mexico's brightest new talents in Manuel Alfonso Andrade Oropeza , who currently wrestles under the name Andrade "Cien" Almas, ending the historic NJPW Intercontinental title streak of Nakamura to become the first Mexican Inter chip holder in the promotion's history. Pretty impressive.

Also, you feel the wild infectious charisma of heel Shinsuke as he is straight incredulous in the face of a very hostile Mexico City crowd. He knows you hate him and he returns that energy in equal force. An amazing performance in front of a completely different wrestling crowd and culture.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, August 2015 G1 Climax 25

In any conversation about Nakamura, you have to mention the most defining rivalry of his career with the dynamic and oh so pretty superstar who many say saved New Japan Pro Wrestling, the god Hiroshi.

This one is significant because it was the last match of more than a decade of competition between two of Japan's finest talents. And in a grueling 35 minute match, both of them let it all hang out to give the crowd a special send off by a couple of wrestling's most consistent in ring performers of all time.

Kazuchi Sakuraba, January 2013 Wrestle Kingdom 7

Off the top, if you're not familiar with Sakuraba, read this. My man is fucking DANGEROUS. So you'll understand why this match is on my list because it shows what kind of champ Nakamura wanted to be and why many, including myself, consider him the greatest Intercontinental champ in NJPW history, and maybe of any promotion if you really want to push it.

And I still have no idea how Nakamura got it together after cold being knocked the fuck out by a SPICY Sakurbara knee. You'll know it when you see it.

Kazuchika Okada, August 2014, G1 Climax 24

Simply put, it doesn't get any bigger than Okada. He is that bitch in Japanese pro wrestling. He is the current heavyweight champ that has held the belt for an absolutely silly year and some change, and he is a permanent resident on PWI's hottest overall wrestlers in the world having the longest tenure of anyone which at the time of this writing it at 75 weeks. Sick.

So you understand the gravity of the match as rumors continued to swirl about Nakamura's departure to the West and between the two as Okada used to be a subordinate to Nakamura in his heel stable, Chaos. Nakamura was still one of the top guys in Japan and Okada was coming on strong as one of the dudes that could wear the crown.

What happened next was an instant classic.

Kota Ibushi, January 2015, Wrestle Kingdom 9

[Starts around 15:30]
One of the more interesting aspects concerning Nakamura is the diversity of his skills. He actually had a pretty good MMA career going before he decided to focus exclusively on wrestling. You see a lot of MMA techniques mixed in with his wrestling style which shows how much an influence it had on him as he developed.

Ibushi was another competitor that also had an impressive background in another sport before coming to wrestling. Ibushi is a very accomplished practitioner of karate before coming to the ring and was well on his way to becoming a highly respected pro before deciding to mix it up on the mat.

As this was return match from their classic match up from a couple of years ago, expectations were pretty high as they had not matched up against each other since that night.

Maybe it was the crowd's energy that night or maybe it was just two high level competitors not wanting to lose. But whatever the reason, what resulted is one of the sublimely brutal matches I have ever seen and still ranks in my top 10 matches of not just Japanese pro wrestling but ever.

Yeah, I said it.