This was during Nakajima’s rookie year and he was getting booked everywhere at this point, either on his own or, more often than not, on the same shows as his adopted father Kensuke Sasaki. He only made a couple of appearances for Osaka Pro but these were his own, and this particular match was the opening round of their Tennozan tournament. He was ridiculously good for such an inexperienced wrestler, although the quality of his opponents will certainly have helped him along at this point. The first match I ever saw him in was a New Japan singles match with Jushin Liger, if that tells you anything. In many ways MA-G-MA was a perfect opponent for him. The promotion’s top heel at the time, he was able to let Nakajima shine for long periods of time before regaining his heat with underhanded tactics, like bashing Nakajima with a chair or kicking him in the nuts. Nakajima was probably allowed to show more than an ordinary rookie would in this situation but if the result was a good match, I wasn’t complaining.
The Michinoku/Osaka Pro promotions have always been known for some of the more flashy, technical wrestling but that’s more of a babyface thing. The best heels in those groups were always the most charismatic wrestlers with the best timing, so they could keep up with the others but didn’t necessarily need to kill themselves in the process. That’s why MA-G-MA was still awesome in Dragon Gate (as Magnitude Kishiwada), and is probably still awesome today wherever he decides to rock up. He just projects dickhead charisma, even with a mask covering most of his face. MA-G-MA did do some flipping in this one, getting cocky with a series of moonsaults that lead to Nakajima scoring some incredibly close nearfalls, including one off a backslide that… it was three. Nakajima was robbed. Ultimately, however, the experience difference was too much and MA-G-MA advanced with a lariat and a dragon suplex. A decent learning experience for Nakajima to work with a far more experienced wrestler, whereas MA-G-MA just did what he does, guiding him through it, letting him impress everyone and losing nothing himself. Like a good veteran wrestler should!