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March 15, 2009 / TJ Hawke

Hirooki Goto vs. Shinsuke Nakamura from NJPW’s New Japan Cup 2009


Lee Goodfellow’s recap:

This a quarterfinal match from the New Japan Cup in 2009. I only started following New Japan in 2011, so it’s weird for me seeing Shinsuke without his leather trousers and Goto without his dress. They lock up and trade holds to begin. They take it to the mat, where the are evenly matched, which the demonstrate with a rapid exchange of holds. Back on their feet, Goto locks in a headlock, then takes Nakamura down again. Nakamura breaks free, then they charge at each other. Shinsuke embraces the first charge, then counters Goto, then is Goto counters his charge with a takedown. Goto goes for running senton, but Nakamura dodges and kicks him. Very cool sequence. They end up on the mat again, both trying to leg lock each other, which ends when Goto makes it to the ropes. This leads to more mat wrestling, which Goto quickly takes control of. Nakamura manages to roll through to the ropes. Goto seems to have had it with this, and starts angrily throwing kicks at Nakamura. They trade strikes then Shinsuke wipes out a running Goto with a leg lariat. They take turns booting each other from the top rope on opposing corners of the ring, before Nakamura nails Goto with a running dropkick, sending him off the apron. This has been excellent so far.


Back in the ring, Nakamura goes to work on Goto’s arm. This leads to him just kicking the downed Goto which pisses him off so he gets up and they trade strikes. Nakamura gets the advantage, and takes Goto down via the arm. Shinsuke goes for the first cover of the match, which gets a one before Goto grabs the rope, then Shinsuke grabs the arm again. More Nakamura dominance as he chokes Goto with his boot in the corner. He follows up with knees to the chest, and it isn’t looking good for Goto. A Shinsuke scoop slam leads to a two count, then he goes back to work on the arm. Goto dodges a charging Nakamura in the corner, and nails him with a spinning heel kick. Goto sets him up on the top rope, where they trade strikes. Goto locks in a sleeper, then hits some nasty strikes when the ref calls for the break. Goto lands a nasty neckbreaker, bringing Nakamura back down to earth. A standing elbow is followed by a diving elbow from the top, which gets Goto a two count. Both guys get back up and trade strikes. Goto comes out on top, and lands a nice saito suplex. Well, it might have been a back suplex, I always find it hard to tell the difference. Goto gets two. Goto locks Nakamura legs with his while he puts him in a crossface. Nakamura makes it to the ropes. A Nakamura spinning heel kick turns the tables yet again. Goto throws him into the ropes, then receives a boot when he charges after him. Nakamura repeatedly kicks Goto as he tries to stand. Sends him into the ropes and nails a powerslam for two. A sweet sequence of running and dodging culminates in a Nakamura german suplex and a two count. They get back up and Goto lands a german of his own.


Back on their feet once more, and again they trade vicious forearm strikes, then slaps. Goto ends up punching Nakamura in the face. The ref isn’t pleased, then Shinsuke responds with a right hook of his own. He picks Goto up and lands a suplex facebusterish thing for two. Goto gets picked up again, but counters with a reverse DDT.Goto charges and Nakamura tries to counter with his signature awesome armbar, but Goto manages to counter the counter into a cover for two. Goto hits a neck/backbreaker, then goes for another suplex, which Nakamura escapes with a knee. He then runs at Goto and throws kicks and forearms, but Goto wipes him out with a lariat for two. Goto hits a running lariat that turns Nakamura inside out and one, two, three, it’s all over! Goto wins, and advances to the semi final (spoiler alert: Goto went on to defeat Yuji Nagata and Giant Bernard/Lord Tensai/Prince Albert to win the whole tournament).


What a match! Nakamura and Goto are arguably New Japan’s best heavyweights. They have a lot of chemistry together, which was demonstrated best in several smoothly executed sequences throughout. Masterfully laid out, this was a gripping contest without a wasted moment. I loved everything from the mat wrestling opening, to the frequent trading of stiff strikes, to the hot finishing stretch. It was such a decisive victory for Goto, who would have been deemed the underdog at the time, and probably still would be now to an extent as Nakamura is eternally one of the top two in NJPW.

Match rating: ****


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