That Time Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi Were Tag Team Champions

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The Build Up

It was late 2004, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi were New Japan’s rising stars. By this time, Nakamura had already become the youngest ever IWGP Heavyweight champion, defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003. Tanahashi too had captured some gold in 2003, in the IWGP U-30 Openweight championship. Interestingly, Tanahashi would go on to lose that title to Nakamura at Toukon Festival: Wrestling World 2005 in the Tokyo Dome, which was basically Wrestle Kingdom before it was known as Wrestle Kingdom. That was the first notable singles match the two had ever had, and the start of what would be one of New Japan’s greatest rivalries that continues to this day. But before that match in 2005, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi were besties. Well, maybe not besties, but they were a formidable tag team.

Meanwhile, in early 2004, Minoru Suzuki and Yoshihiro Takayama, two wrestlers known for their legitimate toughness, had captured the IWGP Tag Team titles from Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Osamu Nishimura, ending their brief 49 day run. Suzuki and Takayama had a dominant 294 day run as champs, a run that would’ve continued even longer, had they not vacated the titles on November 21st. Of course, vacating the titles was completely out of their hands. In an unsurprisingly physical, hard-hitting match against Kensuke Sasaki, Takayama suffered a cerebral thrombosis, which is a form of stroke. The stroke left part of his face paralysed, and he had to take about two years off from pro wrestling. Although in that time, he did do some colour commentary for Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Less than a month after the titles were vacated, they would once again be up for grabs on December 11th, 2004, at NJPW Battle Final in Osaka, Japan. One of the teams vying for the titles was the hungry, young upstarts, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi. The other team consisted of one half of the previous title holders who was trying to reclaim his vacated title – Minoru Suzuki, and the man who was in the match which sidelined the other previous champion – Kensuke Sasaki. To say Nakamura and Tanahashi would have their work cut out for them would be quite the understatement.

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The Match

Now, while the titles were vacated, watching the pre-match video package, it looked like Takayama had hand-picked Sasaki to team with Suzuki, handing him his half of the tag titles. When coming to the ring, Suzuki and Sasaki actually still had the titles with them. I’m assuming that they had simply kept hold of the titles, even though they were technically vacated and Suzuki and Sasaki weren’t really the champions.

The match started and it’s clear very early on that Nakamura and Tanahashi are in for an uphill battle. Suzuki and Sasaki immediately take control and work over Tanahashi. After being dominated for nearly ten straight minutes, Tanahashi, who is now selling his leg like it could be broken, eventually makes a tag. Nakamura comes in hot, but is very quickly cut down and turned inside out by a Sasaki lariat. Now it’s Nakamura’s turn to take a beating, and boy did he take a long one. For about twelve minutes, Suzuki and Sasaki tear Nakamura to pieces. Nakamura tries to tag in Tanahashi multiple times, but is always cut off just before reaching his partner. Suzuki and Sasaki are in complete control and absolutely schooling the youngsters in tag team wrestling.

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Nakamura finally makes a tag and Tanahashi has a Daniel Bryan-esque flurry of offense, including a suicida and a missile dropkick. Just when it looks like the match is turning around, Suzuki attacks Tanahashi’s injured leg, and quickly takes back control yet again.
A few minutes later, Sasaki has Tanahashi in a submission predicament, but Nakamura makes the save with what looked to be a Boma Ye on Sasaki (the cameramen didn’t get a clear shot). Nakamura has the advantage, but just like before, it doesn’t last long.

Finally, after countless hope spots (well, about three or four), almost completely worn out, Nakamura surprises Suzuki with a cross armbreaker out of nowhere. Suzuki makes the ropes, Nakamura makes a tag, and Tanahashi comes in. After almost thirty minutes, the match is finally turning around for Nakamura and Tanahashi. Sensing the shift in control, the crowd now comes alive with excitement. They know they’re in for something special.

The last five or so minutes of the match is simply beautiful. Wonderful double team moves, nearfalls and submission attempts by both teams. With Nakamura and Sasaki busy on the outside, Suzuki hits his Gotch piledriver on Tanahashi, a move that puts most men away, but Tanahashi kicks out. Suzuki then tries to put an end to things once and for all with Saka Otoshi – an inverted facelock takeover transitioned into a sleeper – but Tanahashi avoids the sleeper and counters with a small package. Suzuki kicks out, but Tanahashi immediately hits a bridging dragon suplex and gets the pin. After being dominated for nearly the entire match, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura are the new IWGP Tag Team champions. And boy did they earn it!

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The Fallout

Nakamura and Tanahashi would go on to hold the titles for a very respectable 323 days, eventually dropping them to Cho-Ten (Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) on October 30th, 2005 in Kobe, Japan. In that time, they would successfully defend the belts on no more than four occasions. Not a lot considering the length of their reign, but it’s also not dissimilar to other reigns of that length. It’s also the only reign the two have had as tag team champions together.
Despite being just inside the top ten longest IWGP tag title runs, it’s not a reign which is often talked about, and has even been forgotten by some. My Japanese friend who’s been a fan of NJPW for a number of years, didn’t even realise they had been tag champs together until I brought it up.

While not memorable for some, I like that before these two guys would go on to face each other on a number of occasions, usually resulting in classic matches, they were actually a great tag team. It was pre-SWAG/YeaOh Shinsuke Nakamura, and pre-Air Guitar/High Fly Flow Hiroshi Tanahashi. It was 2004 and these two youngsters were on their way up. They are now both top guys in NJPW, and after watching how they won the tag titles in 2004, it’s not hard to see why.

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New Japan Wrestle Kingdom 9 Quick Results

Quick Results

0. New Japan Rumble

Young Lions looked good doing some double teaming. Nagata pinned YOSHI-HASHI with the backdrop hold.

Winner: Yuji Nagata

1. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match: reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) defend against The Young Bucks, Alex Shelley & Kushida, and Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov

Winner: reDRagon

2. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tomoaki Honma vs. Jeff Jarrett & Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi with Karen Jarrett

Winner: Tomoaki Honma, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan

3. Naomichi Marufuji & Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls & Toru Yano vs. Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Shelton Benjamin & Takashi Iizuka

Winner: Naomichi Marufuji, TMDK and Toru Yano

4. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Minoru Suzuki (UWF rules: Knockout, TKO or submission victory only)

Winner: Suzuki Minoru

5. NEVER Openweight Title Match: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Togi Makabe

Winner: Togi Makabe

6. IWGP jr. Heavyweight Title Match: Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Kenny Omega

Winner: Kenny Omega

7. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

Winner: Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata

8. A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito


9. IWGP Intercontinental Title Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

10. IWGP Heavyweight Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi with the High Fly Flow

J-Shoot Podcast Episode 10: Wrestle Kingdom 9 Preview & Predictions Show Notes

  • Listen to J-Shoot at these strong styling places: iTunes, PodOmatic, and Stitcher. Maybe leave a nice review while you’re at it, eh?

– Bonski’s back! This week on J-Shoot we talk all about Wrestle Kingdom 9 on January 4th (3rd for you behind the times Americans) from the Tokyo Dome. We give a brief history of the event, discuss the card, which matches we are most/least looking forward to, and give our 100% accurate predictions that you can bet the house on.*

*DO NOT bet your house on our predictions.

  • You can follow me on twitter here, and Bonski here, or shoot us a question at

  • I’ve also got a written WK9 preview and predictions here, and some pre-WK9 suggested reading here.

  • Enjoy the Show!

  • Be the wind!

New Japan Wrestle Kingdom 9 Suggested Reading

What’s New Japan? Who’s Hiroshi Tanahashi and why do people compare him to John Cena? What’s a Wrestle Kingdom? Why can’t I find any socks?

If you asked any of those questions, I probably can’t help you. Have you checked under the couch? What I can do is suggest some articles I’ve written that relate to New Japan and Wrestle Kingdom 9. Hey, you might learn something new, or something old.

My often inaccurate picks for this year’s Wrestle Kingdom, with GIFs!

Fun interview with Kenny Omega, talking facing WK9, facing Taguchi, and lots more.

Short answer: Because he’s got to!

I’ll let you decide!

If you like five star matches, I recommend checking this one out.

Koala Mask’s New Japan Wrestle Kingdom 9 Preview & Predictions

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Wrestle Kingdom 9

January 4, 2015

Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Japan

It’s Wrestle Kingdom time!!!

I don’t often do previews. One, because I don’t usually have time, but I’m on holidays at the moment and Wrestle Kingdom 9 is too enticing to pass up. Two, my predictions are almost always wrong.

As you probably know by now, you can catch Wrestle Kingdom live on NJPW World (Japanese broadcast only), on traditional PPV, and Flipps through Global Force Wrestling (English broadcast).

New Japan Rumble, also known as the New Japan RAMBO! (NJPW World Broadcast Only)

I’m really excited for the RAMBO. This is the first time New Japan has booked this kind of match on a Dome show, where a bunch of regulars are thrown together just to be on the card. It’s basically the same concept as the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal from WWE WrestleMania XXX. The way this one will work is there are 15 competitors. Every 1 minute, a new person will enter the match. It’s not known who will enter until the person’s music hits. The problem with that is a lot of the wrestlers’ music will be different due to copyright issues. Originally, all 15 members were to remain a surprise, but recently, Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu “Slomo” Nakanishi, and Tiger Mask have all been confirmed. The rest of the participants will likely be New Japan regulars, such as Taichi, Desperado, YOSHI-HASHI, Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka and so on, and probably one or two surprises, much like the WWE Royal Rumble.

I determined from the description on the New Japan website that it’s over the top rope eliminations, but it may also be pinfalls and submissions.

I expect Liger and Desperado will do something to advance their storyline and build up their upcoming match. I also expect the match to be over by the time Nakanishi makes it to the ring. Because he’s slow.

I also hope there’s a Kofi Kingston Royal Rumble spot somewhere in this match.

Prediction: Super Strong Machine makes a surprise appearance and wins the Rumble. He then unmasks, and it’s revealed he’s actually Sylvester Stallone in character as John James Rambo!

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs.Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) vs. Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)

Having this match on first is a pretty neat idea as there will probably be a lot of new eyes on this who and there are a lot of familiar faces in this match. The Young Bucks can be found all over the place, from ROH to PWG. TNA fans will be familiar with Alex Shelley. Romero and Koslov have both worked in ROH. And of course reDRagon are the ROH tag team champs. KUSHIDA is the only Japanese competitor in this one, and even he got over well with ROH fans on the ROH/NJPW shows from earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, this match probably won’t go ver long, say bout 10 minutes at the most, so despite the talent and potential, it’s unlikely to steal the show. It will however, be one of the most fun-filled 5-10 minutes of wrestling you’re likely to see anywhere. Don’t expect too many rest holds, these guys will be doing as many crazy spots as they can fit in.

It’s hard to pick a winner. Any of these teams would make great champions, and they’ve all had turns at holding the titles already.

Really, I just hope this doesn’t happen again:

Prediction: Time Splitters regain the titles

Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett and Yujiro Takahashi (The Bullet Club) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima (Tencozy) and Tomoaki Honma

Aside from Honma, this is the match I’m least interested in seeing. TenCozy were a great tag team, and Kojima is still good, but Tenzan is getting slower by the minute. The likely scenario is the Bullet Club come out looking strong, and Jeff Jarrett pins Honma. Because it’s Honma. My ideal scenario is Honma gets his WrestleMania  Wrestle Kingdom moment by hitting the ever elusive diving Kokeshi and pinning Jeff Jarrett to pick up the win for his team. We can only dream.

Another option is Honma goes back to his BJW days and fluorescent lights everybody to death. I’d be OK with that.

Prediction: Honma pins Jarrett after hitting a diving Kokeshi (In my dreams)

Toru Yano, Naomichi Marufuji and TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste  vs. Suzukigun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka)

This match should really be a showcase for the NOAH guys. Marufuji is the GHC World Heavyweight Champion. The chances of Iizuka pinning him are slim to none. “The Might Don’t Kneel,” but they do come out to Joker and the Thief by Wolfmother, a song I despised when it came out, but really like as TMDK’s entrance music. Hopefully TMDK, the Tokyo Sports 2013 Tag Team of the Year, will get an opportunity to shine on the big stage, and no matter the outcome, begin a cross-promotion feud with Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy & Archer).

Also Yano will looked confused.

Prediction: Ain’t no way NOAH’s champion is losing. Yano, Marufuji, Nichols and Haste

Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (UWF Rules)

This will either be short and sweet, or short and the drizzling s**ts. For fans of the days of Pride and Pancrase, Suzuki vs. Sakuraba is a dream match up. Suzuki can really go when it counts, Sakuraba is a bit more hit or miss. I’m still scarred from the Sakuraba/Gracies abominations from earlier in the year. If the build up is anything to go by, this should be a very heated fight. Hopefully with lots of strikes and submission attempts, and not just 10 minutes of rolling around.

It’ll be interesting how this match is received by newcomers, as the style is quite different to a typical wrestling match. UWF rules means no pins. The participants can only win by submission or knockout.

Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

NEVER Openweight Championship
Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Togi Makabe

Stiff. Brutal. Violent. Possible bloody. What’s that saying that people say about objects that can’t be moved and forces that can’t be stopped? That’s these guys. Expect some brainbusters, delayed vertical suplexes, German suplexes of the spider kind, and lariat battles with neither guy going down.


Being an Ishii match, I expect nothing less than 4 stars. If he can pull a four and a half star match out of Yujiro Takahashi, he can do wonders with Makabe.  Last year Ishii wasn’t even on the Tokyo Dome show. This year, he’s going to make sure that never happens again.

Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Kenny “The Cleaner” Omega

Taguchi needs a new nickname, the “Funky Transition”. As in, transitional champion. I can’t see Taguchi retaining the title here. Kenny Omega, after a big debut, in his first match as “The Cleaner” simply has to win. A loss would be completely deflating and ruin what could be an amazing run for Omega in the jr. division.

Taguchi as champion his been fine, but his run hasn’t set the would on fire. Kenny Omega is the kick in the butt the junior division sorely needs.

These two have met many times in the past. They had an excellent match in the 2014 Best of Super Juniors tournament, and they had amazing tag team matches as Apollo 55 (Taguchi & Price Devitt/Finn Bálor) and the Golden Lovers (Omega & Kota Ibushi)., so the potential to put on a great match is there. Hopefully the match won’t be soured by too much Bullet Club interference. A big, definitive win for Omega will make a much bigger statement than a win tainted by BC interference.

Cheap Plug: I had the pleasure of talking with Omega on J-Shoot about his upcoming match among many other things. You can check out the interview here.

Prediction: Kenny Omega

IWGP Tag Team Championship
Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) (c) vs. Meiyu Tag (Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata)

Interesting facts: Katsuyori Shibata has won a total of ZERO titles in his time in New Japan. Hirooki Goto has challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight title SEVEN times and come up short each one. He has, however, won the G1 Climax, and the New Japan Cup a bunch of times, and he’s a former IC champ and junior tag champ.

The point is, when it comes to the big matches, particularly with titles on the line, Shibata and Goto almost always come up short. Now, may finally be Meiyu Tag’s time. Anderson and Gallows captured the tag titles this time last year at Wrestle Kingdom 8, and while holding them for the entire year, their run with the titles has been lacklustre at best. And that’s not entirely their fault. Before Meiyu Tag came onto the scene and won the World Tag League, the tag division had pretty much dried up.

Exciting new champs is just the thing the division needs. And with the apparent NOAH/New Japan collaboration, the possible future match ups are very exciting. Meiyu Tag vs. TMDK, or Meiyu Tag vs. Sugiura & Tanaka are very enticing possibilities.

Prediction: Meiyu Tag finally don’t choke and win the titles. Red Shoes disapproves. 

A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito

I don’t know why, but I keep forgetting this match is even on the card. That’s ridiculous because Styles and Naito have the potential to put on a show-stealer. I suppose the reason I forget about it is because there hasn’t been a whole lot of build up for it. Naito beat Styles in the G1, so I’m guessing it’s Styles’ turn for a win.I see Styles being an important part of the IWGP title picture in the future so a win here makes sense. Not much else to say about this one, so I’ll let Matt Striker take over.

Prediction: A.J. Styles

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Kota Ibushi

Some might say it’s too early for Ibushi to win the prestigious IC title, a title which Nakamura is directly responsible for making prestigious, with a little help from Tanahashi, but mainly Nakamura . They say he needs more of a chase for the title, that he’s only just become a heavyweight and needs to prove himself by winning a few matches first. I say nuts to that.

A win here for Ibushi will instantly propel him to the next level. The level of Nakamura, Tanahashi and Okada. If I have one complaint about New Japan over the year, it’s that they haven’t really made any effort to build new talent, or prepare talent for a time in the future when there may not be a Tanahashi or Nakamura around. In fact, I wrote all about it here.

For anyone who doesn’t think Ibushi has what it takes to play in the big leagues, they haven’t seen his 2013 G1 match with Nakamura.

Prediction: Kota Ibushi

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada

A couple of months ago, I expected the Tokyo Dome main event to be Kazuchika Okada versus A.J. Styles, as a big part of 2014 was focused on their rivalry, which would culminate with one last big match at the biggest stage of them all. But then things changed. Okada won the G1, earning him a title shot at the Dome. Tanahashi won the title from Styles, so Okada ended up challenging Tanahashi for the title. Initially I felt some slight disappointment when this match was announced.  Tanahashi vs. Okada certainly isn’t anything new. They’ve met many times before in big match situations. Oh, I wrote all about that too. You  can read about it here. That disappointment was quick to disappear when I remembered that every time these two face each other, they produce nothing less than greatness. Foe example, their last two singles matches together both earned five stars from the Observer.  It’s also been over a year since the two have had a singles match together. The choice to make this the main event was clearly the right one, as this year’s Wrestle Kingdom looks to be the biggest in the years.

Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

One last thing that I would be remiss not to mention, of the elements that makes Wrestle Kingdom events so special is the pageantry. Case in point, the ring entrance of the Time Splitters at Wrestle Kingdom 8.

Yeah. That’s  a Delorean. Your move, everybody else.