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There is so much tape library content available from WWE Network, New Japan World, traditional DVDs and tapes, and a growing list of independent promotions offering streaming content of their top matches.
At the beginning of the year, I’m starting a new Match of the Day video series looking back at a relevant match that has some interesting historical context or tie-in to current events…
Match of the Day
January 1, 2016
Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) vs. Kota Ibushi
January 4, 2011
“Wrestle Kingdom” Tokyo Dome Show
Available: New Japan World
Devitt/Balor exploded on WWE’s NXT scene in 2015, setting up a likely big WWE run in 2016. Five years ago at the Tokyo Dome Show, a young Devitt defended the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title against Kota Ibushi.
The two met in the finals of the 2010 Best of the Super Jrs. tournament when Devitt beat Ibushi. Another match in the series occurred half-a-year later at the 2011 Tokyo Dome Show.
This was two years before the Bullet Club faction started, so Devitt was simply a rising star in the Jr. Hvt. division, while Ibushi was much smaller than he is now as a Hvt. division wrestler.
The match started with a feeling-out process as members of the Jr. Hvt. roster watched intently from ringside. Devitt eventually took control with a top-rope superplex targeting Ibushi’s neck. Ibushi came back with a moonsault to the outside in front of a group of photographers.
Back in the ring, Ibushi snapped off a combination of strikes into a double somersault moonsault that wowed the crowd and resulted in a two count. Ibushi followed with a German Suplex with a bridge pin for another close nearfall.
Ibushi then took Devitt to the top turnbuckle for an amazing leaping huracanrana, which only resulted in a two count. Ibushi followed with a top-rope 450 splash, but Devitt kicked out again. Indeed, Devitt gave up a lot of offense in this match.
Ibushi tried to follow with a top-rope Phoenix Splash, but Devitt rolled out of the way. Devitt then nailed a top-rope missile dropkick to Ibushi’s head. He went back to the top for a double foot stomp, and he connected, but Ibushi kicked out at two. Devitt tried to follow with Bloody Sunday, but Ibushi blocked, so Devitt nailed an inverted pumphandle slam, but Ibushi kicked out, wowing the crowd.
The battle moved to the top rope, where Ibushi went for a springboard huracanrana, but Devitt caught him in mid-air and dropped him to the mat with a super Bloody Sunday. Devitt covered for the pin and the win.
WINNER: Devitt in 16:30 to retain the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title. This was some fantastic back-and-forth high-flying action. Devitt was two years away from becoming a leader of the Bullet Club faction, but you could see the signs of him becoming a big star at this point on the big stage of the Tokyo Dome. It’s an interesting trip back in time to five years ago before Devitt became Finn Balor.