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anti-AGING: Yuji Nagata’s 2011 Tournament Glory

by on May 31, 2011

By Dean Knickerbocker

For me, a few of the joys of being a puroresu fan include the annual tournaments and Yuji Nagata!
I love the various tournaments that the Japanese promotions stage such as the G-1 or the World Strongest Tag League.  This spring has featured two annual tournaments, the AJPW Champion Carnival and the NJPW New Japan Cup.  Both tournaments were well booked, well fought affairs.  And each was won by (as his blue t-shirt proclaims) the “ANTI aging”  Nagata.

For any other puroresu fans, investing the time to watch both tournaments and seeing Nagata throw his awesome kicks, strikes and suplexes is well worth it.

The Champion Carnival was five nights in Korakuen Hall and featured hard hitting and dramatic matches every night. Almost every match was 15 mins plus and well worked.  Each night usually featured one or two great matches and there was only one bad match the whole tournament (which in itself was so bad it was entertaining).

Night one featured the very strange match between Minoru Suzuki and KENSO in which KENSO seemed not to be cooperating from the start (rumor was a concussion later on in the match, but that does not explain the early awkward moments).  He is probably lucky Suzuki didn’t completely kick the crap out of him.  There was also an excellent draw between Taiyo Kea and Jun Akiyama.  Night two featured two of the better matches of the tournament.  Both Kea vs Suzuki and Triple Crown Champion Suwama vs Nagata were great matches with Suwama/Nagata being the best match of the tournament.   The highlight of night three was an excellent match between Seiya Sanada and Akiyama.  Besides Nagata, Sanada was the star of the tournament. Night three also was the only Nagata loss in a great striking match with Masakatsu Funaki.

Similar to the first three shows, Night four had great Kea/Sanada and Akiyama/Suzuki matches.  It also had an amazing unplanned spot where Takao Omori threw Suwama into the handicapped seating area and a bunch of spectators in wheelchairs scrambled to get out of the way before the Triple Crown Champion fell into their laps.  The final night was great top to bottom and included a very stiff Joe Doering and Kea match, plus Sanada having a good match with Suzuki to make the final and then a great match in a loss to Nagata in the final.

Overall the Champion Carnival is about 12 hours of solid puroresu and well worth it for any fan to watch.  If you like hard hitting matches or to mark out for Yugi Nagata like I do, the whole tourney is a treat.  If you can’t afford to watch the whole thing, it is worth going out of your way to see Suwama vs Nagata and Sanada vs Nagata. In winning, Nagata earns a Triple Crown shot at Suwama which will be at the AJPW PPV in June.

The New Japan Cup was fun but overall a step down from the Champion Carnival.  It is a single elimination tourney and since all the matches were interspersed with regular NJPW matches on the shows, they tended to be shorter.  I dont think any of the matches went over 15 minutes.  Also only nights one, three and four are available so far.

There were good matches throughout the tourney including Togi Makabe over Satoshi Kojima, MVP over Karl Anderson,  Shinsuke Nakamura over Hirooki Goto, Makabe over MVP, Nagata over Masato Tanaka, and Nakamura over Makabe.

The final pitted Nakmura and Nagata.  This was a brutal slugfest that could have been a classic if they had more time.  Nagata ends up going over in about 15 mins.  I loved this match and if they had about 5-10 mins longer, they really could have put something amazing together.

So the 43 yr old Nagata becomes the first man to win the Champion Carnival and New Japan cup in the same year and earns both an IWGP and a Triple Crown shot in the future.  As mentioned, the Triple Crown match with Suwama is set for June.  His IWGP match with champion Hiroshi Tanahashi was on April 3rd.  A discussion of that match deserves a post all on its own.

 

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