First….some maths (I know….everyone hold onto your seats).
This match lasted just under 15 minutes and had 167 strikes in total, averaging a strike every 5.3 seconds. Shingo Takagi was on the receiving end of 105 of those strikes, meaning he was being punched, slapped or kicked once every 8.5 seconds and he also spent 72 seconds in in submission holds, most of which was him being slowly choked into oblivion.
And when you consider that the person delivering those blows and strangleholds was Minoru Suzuki, you’d probably say that Shingo should consider it a pretty successful evening to have only lost his Never Open-Weight title, when most other lesser mortals would have simply broken down, cried and been haunted by the memory of The King for the rest of their lives.
Arriving in the ring in the almost idyllic outdoor setting that was being used for Summer Struggle, Shingo and Suzuki didn’t even wait for the bell to ring before they started slapping each other about, and that was pretty much the story of this match from beginning to end.
The two launched into each other with granite-like strikes, and it didn’t take long for the action to spill to the outside where Shingo lined up his foe against the ringpost like a firing squad victim and chopped his chest into mince. This being Minoru Suzuki however, he seemed to enjoy all of this and indeed once he began to return fire he cackled maniacally as he did so enjoying both the giving and receiving of violence.
For large portions of the match we were simply treated to back and forth striking, whether it be Shingo’s meaty chops or Suzuki’s horrendously heavy sounding forearms, but it did always feel as if it was the seemingly insane Suzuki who got the better of these exchanges. On more than a few occasions, Takagi ended a seemingly 50-50 battle looking like he’d just gone 12 rounds with a combine harvester and it would be this relentless savagery that would ultimately decide the bout.
To Shingo’s credit he did get the most dynamic offence in during the match, hitting both his Pumping Bomber and Made in Japan special moves whilst also attempting on more than one occasion to up the speed to try and throw the monster off his game. Sadly for Shingo this particular monster cannot be easily distracted from his goal of pummeling whoever he wants, and time and time again Suzuki would simply respond to Shingo’s offence by returning to his tried and tested policy of tenderising as much of his head and chest as possible.
In one particularly terrifying set-piece, Shingo tried to execute his Last of the Dragon finisher only to see Suzuki escape and then deliver a sickening headbutt to the back of Takagi’s head. Two further shattering headbutts followed before Suzuki laid into the champion with a wild flurry of slaps and punches that left even me feeling shaken.
In fact the only move that Suzuki executed that wasn’t a strike or a submission attempt was a drop-kick that felt incredibly out of place in his otherwise sadistically simple approach to proceedings.
As the match neared its end, both men found themselves on their knees butting heads like two massive and angry goats, and this again dissolved into another filthy looking strike battle between the two which left both men staggering around like they’d had a few too many Bank Holiday beers.
But it was Shingo who had clearly had too much, and following one more deafening forearm to the side of his head, he was left open for the sleeper-hold that Suzuki had been trying to wear his opponent down with for the duration of the match. This one left Takagi looking lifeless, and with a sneer to his mentor in the heavens, Suzuki slapped on the Gotch-Style Powerdriver, executed it perfectly and covered his fallen prey for the win and the title.
In many promotions giving a title to a 52 year old veteran may be seen as an odd and even backwards booking decision. But Minoru Suzuki continues to look like he can punch anyone into oblivion on his day, and I doubt there will be a long line of people within NJPW who are keen to take on The King now that he is Never Open-Weight Champion again.
Besides….I dare you to go and tell Suzuki he’s too old to be winning belts.