Shinsuke Nakamura v Kazushi Sakuraba (New Japan, 1/4/13)
I've been so out of the loop with Japanese wrestling that I didn't even realise until a couple weeks ago that Sakuraba was actually back wrestling. Didn't realise until a few days ago that he'd been back since Spetember last year. And Shibata's back as well? Sheeeeit. Obliviousness aside, this was badass. Think it only goes about 12 minutes, so it's compact and doesn't have a bunch of fluff, and everything they do in the time they get looks great. Some of the strikes in this were fucking nuts. Nakamura shoots in for a takedown and Sakuraba just decapitates him with a knee. Nakamura is a guy that would always take a knee in the face like a trooper, but this was repulsive. Sakuraba doing a jumping double stomp on Nakamura's FACE was filthy as well, and Nakamura's return knees - one to the back of Sakuraba's head, which was almost Ikeda/Ono level crazy, one from a standing position while Sakuraba was flat on the mat, and the running knee at the end - all looked appropriately brutal in return. Sakuraba looked lethal on the ground as well. They didn't really do any matwork, but Sakuraba would just relentlessly go after kimuras and chokes. There's one bit where Nakamura blocks a German suplex, so Sakuraba just climbs over him and rolls into a cross-armbreaker. Wasn't just a one man show, though; Nakamura really brought it, too. He was a bit goofy early on with his shtick, but it was a good kind of goofy. Didn't feel totally out of place or anything. Then when shit got real he was great at playing the guy who's outmatched by the shooter, but won't stop coming forward and will always be down to scrap. Last few minutes are pretty much off the charts great. In terms of "pro-wrestler v shooter" matches I didn't think this was touching Cena/Lesnar, but that's a really high bar...and I didn't think it was a huge way off, either. I probably won't watch more than ten matches from this year (if that), but I'd be shocked if I watched a hundred and found ten that I like more.