Manabu Nakanishi’s retirement match and ceremony were the focus of Saturday’s New Japan card at Korakuen Hall as the nearly 28-year veteran bid farewell.
The eight-man tag saw Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Hirooki Goto defeat Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yuji Nagata with Nakanishi taking the fall in the end.
The entire presentation of the match was obviously, structured around Nakanishi. It began with Nakanishi have a meal the night prior reminiscing on the key moments of his career, including his IWGP title win in 2009 defeating Tanahashi with a bridging German suplex. This set up several moments in the upcoming match between the two. The video also looked at his neck injury and subsequent return in 2012.
Riki Choshu was brought out to provide commentary on the Japanese side.
Everyone was chanting for Nakanishi, who entered the ring last.
Okada wanted to start with Nakanishi with their history referenced on the broadcast going back to Okada’s early days with New Japan before his excursion.
The big moments occurred when Tanahashi was in the ring. First with Nagata and their history being discussed, including the final of the 2007 G-1 Climax. Then, Nakanishi entered with Tanahashi and that was the prime focus throughout the second half of the match with Nakanishi squaring off against the man he won the IWGP heavyweight title from eleven years ago.
There was one comedic element to the match where Nagata missed Tanahashi with a boot and drilled Nakanishi, who responded by attacking Nagata and lifting him for the Argentine backbreaker. Later, he lifted Nagata and threw him into Tanahashi.
Tanahashi had momentum, set up for the High Fly Flow and Nakanishi rose from the mat and stopped Tanahashi before delivering a superplex, which the audience was in awe of seeing the 53-year old execute.
The older veterans applied four simultaneous submissions including Tanahashi placed into the Argentine backbreaker. He hit Tanahashi with the Hercules Cutter and then attempted the bridging German to reference the 2009 match and was stopped. Okada hit a dropkick on Nakanishi and led to the ending sequence.
Nakanishi was hit with the GTR, Kamigoye, Rainmaker, and finally, the High Fly Flow as Tanahashi pinned Nakanishi at 18:03.
The crowd booed Okada as he hit the dropkick because it was a prelude to the end but was the only way this match was going to end.
This isn’t going to be a match-of-the-year candidate but for drama and emotion, it had a lot of it with Nakanishi playing the role of the aging veteran digging down deep to leave everything in the ring before his career ended.
The post-match ceremony saw speeches in-person from Seiji Sakaguchi, Riki Choshu, Hiroshi Hase, and Tatsumi Fujinami with members of the locker room out and the closing words from Nakanishi and a ten-bell salute.
This was as classy a send-off as you are going to see with very few receiving a ‘goodbye’ but New Japan has shown such class in how they treat their legends, and this was no different.
Here are the results from the show at Korakuen Hall:
*Tiger Mask & Gabriel Kidd over Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
*Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru over Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano, Colt Cabana & Rocky Romero
*Hiromu Takahashi, Sanada & Bushi over Roppongi 3K & Toa Henare
*Jay White, Guerrillas of Destiny & Bad Luck Fale over Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
*Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & EVIL over Will Ospreay, Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi
*Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi & Hirooki Goto over Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan