Yuji Nagata vs. Scott Norton
Lost Classic #11

Promotion: New Japan Pro Wrestling
Date: September 23rd, 1998
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Significance: Decision Match for IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Norton's fifth shot at the title


Fans of American wrestling remember Scott Norton as part of "Fire and Ice" or as one of the silent strong men of the nWo that did little of note during his occasional stints in WCW. He didn't win any titles in WCW but he also didn't lose much either, as he stayed in the mid-card as the enforcer of one of the largest heel groups in wrestling history. But when he wasn't standing around looking big in WCW, he was kicking ass in New Japan as one of the greatest gaijins that ever wrestled in the promotion. During his career in New Japan, which lasted over 100 tours (the most of any gaijin wrestler in New Japan history), Scott Norton was a multi-time singles and tag team champion and won the G1 Tag League twice (once with Shinya Hashimoto and once with Keiji Mutoh). Since he was a gaijin he never won the G1 Climax (none ever have), but he did reach the semi-finals in 1995 and 1997. After wrestling professionally for under two years Norton got his first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, showing how much New Japan thought of his abilities, and his last title shot came in 2005 when even in his 40s he was bigger and stronger then most other wrestlers.

Course, Yuji Nagata was no slouch either but at this point he also had never held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In fact, this was his first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship after it was held up due to Masahiro Chono's injury. He had just returned from a stint in WCW as part of his learning excursion and was ready to show all that he had learned. He was less experienced then Norton was however as Nagata debuted several years after Norton, and he had also yet to win his first championship title. But the crowd was solidly behind him as Norton as part of the hated nWo, and history was also on Nagata's side as a gaijin hadn't held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship since February of 1991 (Vader). It was a battle between the technical and the powerful, and going in no one was sure just what the outcome of the clash would be. The stage is set.

As Norton came down to the ring, his nWo entourage was with him, including Keiji Mutoh and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Nagata also had a posse though as well as the support of the crowd. They circle each other to start the match, Nagata goes for a few kicks but Norton shrugs them off. Nagata keeps out of Norton's range until they tie-up, and Norton chops Nagata into the corner. Irish whip by Norton but Nagata avoids the charges and hits a arm drag. Kicks by Nagata, he lands an enzigieri and drops Norton with a backdrop suplex! Norton immediately rises to his feet and levels Nagata with a lariat, but Nagata also quickly recovers and the two face off again. Tie-up, Nagata puts Norton's arm over his shoulder and hits a trio of armbreakers. Norton picks up Nagata though and delivers a side slam, he drags Nagata to his feet, Irish whip, and Norton delivers the Samoan Drop.

Reverse chinlock by Norton into a neck grip, he picks up Nagata and delivers a neckbreaker. Dragon Sleeper by Norton, Nagata tries to kick out of it but Norton pounds Nagata in the chest. Chop by Norton but Nagata returns with a kick and the two trade blows. Nagata gets the better of it and takes Norton to the mat as he goes for the cross armbreaker. Nagata has trouble extending Norton's arm all the way however and Norton manages to link his hands together. They struggle on the mat but Norton gets out of the hold and pounds Nagata in the back. Chops by Norton in the corner but Nagata returns with elbows. Another chop by Norton sends Nagata to the mat, Norton picks up Nagata and delivers a short arm lariat. Back up again, chops by Norton and Nagata falls into the corner. Another lariat by Norton, Nagata returns to his feet and the two trade blows, but again Norton gets the better of it as Nagata crumbles to the mat. Norton picks up Nagata, he puts him on his shoulder and drops him with a shoulder breaker. Fujiwara Armbar by Norton but Nagata gets a foot on the ropes and Norton is forced to break the hold.

Norton rolls out of the ring to recover and returns at the 17 count, but Norton kicks him as he gets in the ring and delivers a second shoulder breaker. Norton goes for the cross armbreaker and gets it locked in, but Nagata quickly gets a foot on the ropes. Norton is slow to break as boos rain from the crowd, Norton picks up Nagata, Irish whip, and Norton hits the powerslam. Cover, but Nagata catches Norton with a Triangle Choke! Norton won't go to sleep however and muscles out of it, Nagata hits a pair of enzigieris but Norton comes back with a pair of lariats. Norton picks up Nagata and nails the Powerbomb, cover, and Norton picks up the win! Your winner and new champion: Scott Norton

And in the end, Norton's power was just too much for Nagata to overcome. He threw everything he had at Norton, but for the most part Norton just laughed at him and tossed Nagata around. He had a real chance when he had Norton locked in the choke in the middle of the ring, but seemingly that just woke up Norton as when he got out of the hold he promptly finished the younger star. Nagata showed that he wasn't quite ready yet to lead the promotion, but he did show a lot of progress and potential which he would put to good use over the next decade.

Norton would hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship until 1/4/99, and had successful defenses against Hashimoto and Nakanishi before losing the title to the great Keiji Mutoh. Norton was far from done in New Japan however as he continued being the brick wall (literally and figuratively) that all young stars had to go through to reach the top of New Japan. Norton would even win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship again, defeating Kensuke Sasaki in 2001. That would be the last championship of Norton's career, but he would continue wrestling in New Japan until 2005. Norton didn't stop wrestling however, and as of the time of this review (August of 2009) Norton still wrestles occasionally on independent promotions in America and in Japan.

Nagata would go on to have a great career in New Japan. On April 5th, 2002 he would finally win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and he would set a IWGP Heavyweight Championship record by successfully defending the title 10 times in the next year. Yoshihiro Takayama would finally beat him on May 2nd, 2003, but Nagata won the title again in 2007. Nagata also has had success in the tag team ranks, as he is one of only four wrestlers to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, All Japan World Tag Team Championship, and the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Currently Nagata is still one of the stars of New Japan and looks to stay that way for many years to come. But this night was about Scott Norton, who seven years after debuting in New Japan finally won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and solidified himself as one of the greatest gaijin wrestlers in puroresu history.

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review completed on 8/1/09