RADICAN’S NJPW “WRESTLE KINGDOM 12” BIG MATCH SPOTLIGHT
IWGP IC CHAMPION HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. JAY WHITE
JAN. 4, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW World
Note: I will be doing spotlight article highlighting the action in the top three matches on NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” today. Here is my spotlight on IWGP IC Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White.
IWGP IC CHAMPION HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. JAY WHITE
The pre-match video package showed Jay White being asked why Tanahashi. He said he wanted to face the ace of NJPW. Tanahashi was shown speaking as well. White said Tanahashi was waiting for someone to knock him off his thrown in a dark setting. Definitely a contrast of light and dark between the two in the pre-match video. White said he didn’t think the old Tanahashi was there anymore.
“Switchblade” Jay White was out first. The sound of a knife scraping a metal surface was shown. White made his way out with his switchblade chain. Fireworks went off all over the stage as White made his way down to the ring. As White made his way to the ring, more fire shot out of the stage. This is an incredible entrance, especially for someone like White, who is getting a huge match like this early in his career. White’s gear had the five count slashes in red font.
Tanahashi was out next. White was shown in the ring with his head buried in the turnbuckle pad. Tanahashi came out and stood at the top of the ramp and strummed his air guitar before heading to the ring. White then stared Tanahashi down as he got close to the ring before he was backed away.
The fans were red hot and chanted for Tanahashi after the opening bell rang. Tanahashi went for a slingshot to the floor early in the match. He missed and favored his knee. This plays into the storyline of White targeting his knee in the build to the match. White went right after his leg on the floor and tied it around the guardrail before nailing it with a kick. They ended up back inside the ring and White continued to target Tanahashi’s leg. Tanahashi slipped behind White when he tried to lift him, but his knee buckled. White immediately hit a dragon screw on Tanahashi’s leg. Tanahashi finally caught a kick attempt from White and hit a dragon screw.
Tanahashi set up for a sling blade, but his leg buckled. They ended up in the corner and Tanahashi trapped one of White’s legs in the ropes and hit a dragon screw on the other. He then hit another dragon screw around the ropes a short time later. The first really big offense for Tanahashi in the match came when he hit a standing high fly flow off the top to the floor on White and the fans fired up. White fired back a short time later back inside the ring and hit a gutwrench German. Tanahashi rolled to the floor and White went right after him and hit a brainbuster from the floor to the apron. White went up top and stalked Tanahashi before getting back down when he saw he was stirring. The fans gasped and White hit a huge chop on Tanahashi in the corner. White kept saying, “Is this the ace?” He taunted Tanahashi and said show me the ace, so Tanahashi fired back and hit some huge slaps. White suplexes Tanahashi into the turnbuckles. He followed up with a Saito suplex and then a DVD driver for a 2 count.
A short time later, White went up top. Tanahashi side stepped a missile dropkick from White and hit a dragon screw! Tanahashi followed up with a neck breaker and was clearly laboring to get up top. White cut him off and they battled up top. White ended up draped over the top rope and Tanahashi hit an avalanche spinning neckbreaker! Tanahashi fired up, but White hit a snap dragon. He got right up and hit White with a sling blade. Tanahashi countered White and hit another sling blade for a 2 count! Tanahashi went up top and hit a standing high fly flow. The fans fired up and Tanahashi went up for a second high fly flow, but White got out of the way and the fans gasped! White immediately got Tanahashi in a crucifix and hit several elbows to the head. White set up Tanahashi for the Kiwi crusher, but Tanahashi kicked out at the last second! Tanahashi countered blade runner into a snap dragon suplex for a 2 count a short time later.
The fans fired up as Tanahashi slowly climbed to the top. White ended up using the ropes to get to his feet. Tanahashi slapped him across the face and hit a standing high fly flow across the back of White. He went up top and hit the high flow for the win! Tanahashi appeared to have busted his nose open at some point during the match, as it was clearly bleeding after the finish.
After the match, Tanahashi glared at White, who rolled out of the ring. Kelly said Tanahashi wasn’t ready to give up his kingdom yet.
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the IWGP IC Championship
Star rating: (****¼)
This match told a very good story. White, the up and coming wrestler in NJPW, thought he could beat Tanahashi because he no longer had the fire that he had when he was the ace of NJPW. Tanahashi lost the IWGP IC Championship to Kazuchika Okada last year and he’s sort of been pushed to the background from a booking standpoint even though he’s the IWGP IC Champion and the storyline is that now that Okada is the man in NJPW, what does Tanahashi have left.
Tanahashi looked a little banged up in this match and he’s battled through injuries in NJPW since for a good portion of 2017. That being said, he went out on a big stage once again and put on a memorable match against White.
They told a good story with White working over Tanahashi’s injured leg after Tanahashi missed a slingshot dive early in the match. White was really good here as a heel, although he’s got a lot of room to grow. He had good presence and taunted Tanahashi throughout the match asking him if he’s still the ace. They never went to a lot of big near falls as White hit his old finish on Tanahashi for good near fall, but he never was able to hit his new blade runner finish. By winning the match, Tanahashi showed he’s still one of the big four in NJPW, which is something Kevin Kelly hammered home on commentary.