Recap from Lee:
This is a bit of a dream match for me, which I’ve somehow never seen before. It’s taken from the “Global Impact” episode of TNA, which featured matches from NJPW Wrestle Kingdom II (2008). Mike Tenay is on commentary alone. He does a decent-ish job of explaining the confusion that was the Inoki version of the IWGP title (NJPW stripped Lesnar of the belt and crowned a new IWGP champion, but Inoki insisted that Lesnar was still champion and had him defend the belt in IGF, where he dropped it to Kurt Angle, who then ended up bringing it back to New Japan), which is on the line here.
The match starts with Angle getting the jump on Nagata. The TNA colour commentator that Taz replaced joins Tenay. Don West, wasn’t it? Anyway, Angle doesn’t keep Nagata down for long, they trade strikes then belly to belly suplexes. Angle dodges a kick and slips out of the ring. Tenay accurately explains their similarities (submissions, suplexes) and differences (Angle’s punches, Nagata’s kicks), which is a nice touch. Nice mat work and submission attempts before Angle again leaves the ring.
Back in the ring, Nagata fires his first kick flurry of the match, but Angle survives with a belly to belly. Nagata gets a brief advantage before Angle starts working on his deadly legs. Bet you’ve never heard legs described as “deadly” before. Angle gets him in a figure four that lasts ages, but the crowd motivate Nagata to eventually make it to the ropes. Angle goes straight back to work, but Nagata kicks him with his less-hurt leg and gets him in an armbar. Commercial break! Maybe I should have watched the cut of this match that aired on the pay per view. Back from the break and there are suplexes galore, then Tenay hands us over to the Japanese commentators, which is pretty cool. We hear one sentence, then Tenay is back.
Still suplexes galore, until Angle downs Nagata, but ends up trapped in the Nagata Lock II. Angle escapes and gets the ankle lock on, which doesn’t last long and he ends up in the Nagata Lock II again. Ankle lock, Nagata escapes, goes for his hold again, then ANGLE SLAM! Nagata kicks out at two. This is awesome. Nagata dodges an Angle moonsault, then connects with a very nice shining wizard. Belly to belly to superplex! Nagata gets a two count. He locks in the crossface, then some cool pinning hold that Angle survives at two. Back on their feet they trade strikes. Nagata boots Angle but then receives a running lariat. A release Saito suplex gets Nagata two! He lines up a finishing kick, which Angle counters into an ankle lock! He gets it locked in, and the challenger has nowhere to go. Nagata submits!
Winner (and still fake IWGP world champion): Kurt Angle
Lee’s Thoughts: Really strong match, which should be no surprise given the talent and the occasion. I really liked how Angle’s relentless leg work combated the threat of Nagata’s kicks, forcing the New Japan veteran to keep going back to the crossface rather than his most trusted weapons. Hell of a finish too, with Nagata finally getting ready for that one big kick, only to have Angle finish the work he started early on and submit him. You could read even further into it and reason that the work on the leg was the reason that the last kick wasn’t too fast for Angle to counter. That’s psychology folks!
Match rating: ****