RADICAN’S NJPW BIG MATCH SPOTLIGHT: 1/29 Road to New Beginning – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KUSHIDA

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist


JAN. 29, 2019

Commentators: Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton

The fans in the crowd were all holding KUSHIDA signs. KUSHIDA made his way out and the fans started chanting his name. He looked emotional as he got into the ring. Hiroshi Tanahashi’s music played and KUSHIDA went down to the mat and stared up at the ceiling. Tanahashi served as a mentor to KUSHIDA. These two have been frequent tag partners in NJPW, but have never faced each other in a singles match.



The bell rang and the fans chanted for KUSHIDA. They went at it at a slow pace during the early going. They locked up and went back and forth before going down to the mat. Tanahashi ended up getting the upper hand on the mat and he began working over KUSHIDA’s leg. KUSHIDA finally fired back and went head-to-head with Tanahashi, but Tanahashi fired back with a slap. KUSHIDA limped around Tanahashi set him up and slammed his leg around the ringpost. KUSHIDA fought out of a dragon screw and hit a Pele kick. He followed up with a handspring elbow a short time later. KUSHIDA hit a cartwheel into a dropkick on a seated Tanahashi and the fans fired up. They went back and forth and KUSHIDA hit a German and a buzzsaw kick for a two count. Tanahashi grabbed KUSHIDA’s leg and hit a pair of inverted dragon screws. Tanahashi has really began to chip away at KUSHIDA’s leg constantly at this point in the match. They traded blows in the middle of the ring. KUSHIDA kicked at Tanahashi’s leg after initially going after his arm earlier in the match. Tanahashi limped to the corner and KUSHIDA hit a running dropkick to Tanahashi’s arm.

They battled for position and Tanahashi finally hit yet another dragon screw. Tanahashi missed a splash in the corner and KUSHIDA went right into the Hoverboard Lock. KUSHIDA switched the hold to Tanahashi’s other arm, but Tanahashi countered it and began setting up for the Cloverleaf Hold, but KUSHIDA grabbed his arm and tried to go back to the Hoverboard Lock. Tanahashi held his hands together to prevent the hold from being applied. Tanahashi tried to roll out of it and KUSHIDA tried to hit Back to the Future, but Tanahashi countered it into Twist and Shout. Tanahashi then hit a Sling Blade for a two count right before the 20 minute mark. Tanahashi went up top and hit a standing High Fly Flow. Tanahashi went up top again and went for the traditional High Fly Flow, but KUSHIDA got his knees up and set up for Back to the Future and connected for a near fall. WOW. The fans fired up and chanted for KUSHIDA. Both men stayed down on the mat for and looked extremely tired after the big near fall.

KUSHIDA got up and hit a running kick to Tanahashi’s arm. They went back and forth and KUSHIDA grabbed Tanahashi’s arm, but he blocked his attempt at starting the Hoverboard Lock initially. KUSHIDA got Tanahashi down to the mat and continued to try to get the hold applied. Tanahashi continued to block the Hoverboard Lock attempt on the mat. Tanahashi got a straightjacket and hit a German with a bridge for a near fall and the fans fired up and chanted for KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA got the Cloverleaf Hold and KUSHIDA struggled towards the ropes. Tanahashi sat down on the hold and KUSHIDA tapped out. What a way to go out of NJPW for KUSHIDA!

Tanahashi embraced KUSHIDA after the match, but Jay White ran down to the ring and nailed him with a chair from behind. KUSHIDA rolled to the floor. Gedo joined White in the ring and urged on his attack. The fans booed White as he picked up a chair and hit Tanahashi over the back with it. The fans chanted for White to go home. White put the chair around Tanahashi’s leg and put the boots to him. He got another chair from Gedo and smashed it over the chair wrapped around Tanahashi’s leg. White grabbed the IWGP World Hvt. Championship and posed with it.

Tanahashi was helped to the outside and KUSHIDA was still down. KUSHIDA got up and hugged Tanahashi. KUSHIDA got on the mic and thanked Tanahashi for showing him what pro wrestling is. KUSHIDA thanked fans for the last six years in NJPW. He said he’s going on a new journey from now on. He thanked the fans one more time and bowed to all four corners of the building.

Kevin Kelly said one day KUSHIDA would come back to NJPW and be better after his new experience wherever he may go. KUSHIDA got on his back in the middle of the ring once again and looked up. Kelly said the jr. hvt. division would have a new ace in the future. KUSHIDA went to ringside and shook hands with the fans and Jushin Liger. KUSHIDAS went into the crowd and continued to hug the fans shake their hands. Kelly thanked KUSHIDA

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi in 25:00. (****)

Radican’s Analysis: This was a great way for KUSHIDA to leave NJPW, as he will make his way to WWE in the near future. The crowd was really into seeing KUSHIDA face one of his mentors for the first time and the match had a great atmosphere. It started slow, but it got tremendous late. The near fall for KUSHIDA after he hit Back to the Future was tremendous.

Jay White ruining the moment between KUSHIDA and Tanahashi after the match was a brilliant way to get heat on White, although they were able to embrace after White left the ringside area. It was fantastic to see the outpouring of love for KUSHIDA from the fans once White left the ring.

It was great to see KUSHIDA get this opportunity to face Tanahashi before leaving NJPW. He will truly be missed and I hope he does return to NJPW one day after finishing his run with WWE. He will likely have a fresh batch of amazing matches waiting for him.

Contact Sean at radicansean@pwtorch.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sr_torch.

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