Wednesday, October 21, 2015

G1 Climax 24 Day One Review

G1 Climax 24 Day One
July 21st, 2014 | Sapporo, Japan

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the 2014 G1 Climax. For those unaware, the G1 Climax is a giant round robin tournament done by NJPW each year. 2014 would be the 24th installment of this series. I only recently got into NJPW in 2015, starting with the excellent Wrestle Kingdom 9 event. I watched the entire 2015 G1 Climax and really enjoyed it. With that being said, I’m doing my best to catch up on the things I’ve missed in NJPW, bringing me here. I’m going to go back and review the entire G1 Climax 24 to see if it is indeed the greatest wrestling tournament ever. Hell, if things go well, I may go back and do the 2013 edition as well. 

In the A Block we have Hiroshi Tanahashi, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata, Katsuyori Shibata, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Shelton X Benjamin, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Doc Gallows and Bad Luck Fale.

Over in B Block we have Togi Makabe, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Yujiro Takahashi, Karl Anderson and IWGP Champion AJ Styles.

Block A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Here I go already showing my ignorance as I had no clue Bad Luck Fale was ever the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Tomohiro Ishii is one bad dude but Fale no sells his first few shots. Ishii gets pounded on for a few before hitting a DDT. He looks incredibly small next to Fale. In an impressive feat of strength, he straight up lifts Fale for a suplex. He can’t get Fale down with a lariat, but eventually does after like four. Fale can’t be German suplexed, and just goes back to hitting some splashes. He tries a Chokeslam but Ishii counters with a kick. Ishii starts to rally with some heavy shots though he can’t put the big man down. Fale counters a suplex attempt with snake eyes like he’s Kevin Nash or something. They just trade vicious blows in the middle of the ring now until Fale hits the grenade for two. The Bad Luck Fall is then hit for the win.

Winner: Bad Luck Fale in 9:39
This was a good hoss battle. The story of Tomohiro Ishii being a badass and not backing down was well done. It seems like anytime Bad Luck Fale is able to catch you, it can cause serious damage, and I suspect that someone with a speed advantage will take him down during this tournament. A good start in a hard hitting battle. Props to Ishii for selling well after the match as he struggles to get to the back. ***

Block A
Doc Gallows vs. Shelton X Benjamin w/ Taka Michinoku

Am I watching a 2009 episode of Smackdown? In the early stages, it seems like Doc Gallows is going to try and use his power advantage. I’ve always felt that for being a big guy, Gallows doesn’t use his size well enough so it’s nice to see it here. They fight outside where Shelton is thrown into the guardrail. Gallows aggressively rearranges them and nearly hits a child in the crowd. He beats on Shelton with a chair, giving us a countout tease. Shelton is doing a solid job of selling Gallows’ offense here. Shelton finally gets something by ducking a punch and hitting a nice German suplex. He trips up Gallows and applies an Ankle Lock, reminding me of his time with Team Angle. Gallows gets free but Shelton is straight up like “fuck you” and trades shots with him. Shelton takes him down with a loud superkick before climbing up top. Gallows catches him in a choke but Shelton breaks free, hitting a high knee and Paydirt from out of nowhere.

Winner: Shelton X Benjamin in 8:54
Sluggish at the start, but once it stopped being all Doc Gallows, it became solid. The finishing stretch was decent and, while the crowd wasn’t into it at the start, popped for the win. I’ve seen better from both guys, but I’ve also seen worse. **¼

Block B
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Karl Anderson

Here we have our first Block B match. Hiroyoshi Tenzan has the record for most G1 appearances with his 18th here and he would hit 19 a year later. The crowd has awoken as they are hot for Tenzan. I wasn’t a big fan of his work in the G1 25, but he was really banged up. Anderson does a good job in riling up the fans with trash talk and by stealing Tenzan’s trademark chops. Anderson chooses the leg as his target for this thing. Tenzan is putting in a good effort, but he is moving pretty slowly. Anderson his a TKO, which is very close to his Gun Stun finisher, for a near fall. Tenzan blocks the actual Gun Stun and hits a headbutt. I swear his head is so big, it could probably kill someone. He locks in the Anaconda Vice and Anderson, to my surprise, taps.

Winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 10:11
I felt like this was perfectly fine. It started very slow, but the closing few minutes were good stuff. Like I said, a good effort from Hiroyoshi Tenzan, but he just moves at half speed. **½

Block A
Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata

I expect this to be two old dudes just beating the fuck out of each other. They deliver early by just hammering away on each other. Naga goes after the leg, applying a figure four once they’re done slapping each other around. Kojima reaches the ropes to break the hold. Nagata lights him up with a series of kicks so Kojima comes back with nonstop chops in the corner. That always looks funny to me. Naga goes back to the figure four, keeping the leg work going. Again, Kojima reaches the ropes but the damage is done. Nagata kicks the shit out of his leg for a bit and then hits a big release German suplex and back suplex for a near fall. Kojima hits a Brainbuster from out of nowhere, but is too hurt to cover. They get up together and again, trade some vicious shots before both falling out. Nagata misses a corner boot and charges out, only to be met with a big lariat that ends things.

Winner: Satoshi Kojima in 11:27
Man, I enjoyed that way more than I thought I would. I knew they would kick each other’s ass, but damn. Not only did they go all out, but I want to credit Satoshi Kojima for the job he did selling the leg work throughout. Both guys looked very good and I enjoyed the finish kind of coming out of nowhere. ***¾ 

Block B
Minoru Suzuki w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Toru Yano

Minoru Suzuki wants to play none of the usual Toru Yano games, kicking him before the bell. He tosses him into the guardrails outside for a few and even lays into him with a chair. He steals Yano’s gimmick of taking off the buckle padding and throws him into that a few times too. Taka distracts the ref as Suzuki goes for a chair shot. Yano ducks, hits a low blow and steals the win with a rollup.

Winner: Toru Yano in 2:15
There goes that sneaky Toru Yano once again. While it was too short to get a legit rating, I did like how Minoru Suzuki was just this bad dude who wanted to kick ass, only to lose on a fluke. 

Block B
Tetsuya Naito vs. Yujiro Takahashi

Well, it’s certainly odd for me to see Tetsuya Naito like this when I’ve spent so much time watching him heel it up. Yujiro Takahashi is the NEVER Openweight Champion, which is another thing I never knew happened. He was pretty dreadful in the 2015 tournament. They start with a fine exchange that Takahashi gets the better of, big booting Naito from the apron into the railing. Yujiro heels it up, smack talking Naito as he beats him up. Naito starts the comeback with some high flying offense. Naito gets a near fall before a rolling kick and his rebound attack off the ropes. I’m surprised at how much Yujiro has dominated. Naito gets two on a bridging German. They go into trading forearm shots and Naito misses another rebound. Yujiro now is the one to get two on a German. Yujiro then wins with a buckle bomb followed by what I believe is called the Miami Shine.

Winner: Yujiro Takahashi in 13:24
Better than most Yujiro Takahashi matches I’ve seen and it may be due to them having chemistry form their past as a team. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to heel Tetsuya Naito now, but I found him to be so generic in this. The lack of personality was off putting. Still, this was solid but unspectacular. **¾

Block B
Hirooki Goto vs. Togi Makabe

I wonder if there is an overarching story here since Togi Makabe just attacks Hirooki Goto instantly. They pound away on each other and we get our third or fourth guardrail spot of the evening. Make that fourth or fifth when Goto returns the favor. There is honestly nothing flashy about this match. They are just beating the hell out of each other in the same vein of Kojima and Nagata earlier. Makabe hits one of my favorite moves, the Northern lights suplex, for two. That might have been our first that wasn’t a strike. Goto hits Ushikoroshi for two, which the crow seemed to bite on. Makabe hits a powerbomb for his own near fall and then misses a knee drop from the top. Goto levels him with a lariat to the back of the head and both guys are down. Goto tries a reverse Ushikoroshi that looks cool but can’t end things. He finally does enough after more hammering and the Shouten Kai.

Winner: Hirooki Goto in 11:37 
Similar to the Yuji Nagata/Satoshi Kojima match that I enjoyed earlier, this was two guys just beating each other up. It worked well and I like Hirooki Goto, so that was an outcome I appreciated. Strong match here. ***¼

Block A
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma

Due to a concussion, Kota Ibushi is unable to compete and was replaced by Tomoaki Honma. I like Honma but I’m a pretty big Ibushi fan so I’m rather disappointed. It’s clear from the start though that the fans love him. So much so that Hiroshi Tanahashi goes right into subtle heel tactics. Great job. After Honma misses his headbutts, Tanahashi hits a somersault and taunts the crowd. He even steals Honma’s headbutt taunt. Honma comes back with a flurry and finally hits a headbutt. He’s like a good 1-4 already. He continues to hit moves, including a Brainbuster for two. The crowd erupts when he climbs up for the big headbutt, but of course, he misses. The two men trade shots with Honma “hulking up”. It only leads to a dragon suplex attempt that he slips free of, so Tanahashi wisely still grabs on for a straight jacket German suplex. He gets a close two on a cradle and then survives a dragon suplex with that FIGHTING SPIRIT! Tanahashi had no time for this though and finished off Honma with the slingblade and High Fly Flow.

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi in 11:01
Really fun match here. Tomoaki Honma has an undeniable likable and sympathetic quality about him. It worked great against a guy like Hiroshi Tanahashi, who tends to win a lot. I loved how Tanahashi turned up the heel knowing that the crow would be behind Honma. He does it really well. ***¾

Block A
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

These are two of my favorite people to watch in NJPW. I was recently treated to someone showing me a match of theirs from the 2004 G1 which was great. They size each other up and each dodge big kicks. Things pick up when Shibata doesn’t give a clean break, slapping Nakamura who comes back with a big running knee. Shibata applies the sleeper on the apron, bringing Nakamura over the top and to the outside. That honestly looks like it hurts a lot. Shibata works his figure four for a bit, wearing down Nakamura. It’s wise considering Nakamura’s Boma Ye finisher. Once that’s over, they just trade forearm blasts in the center of the ring. Nakamura applies a sleeper of his own but Shibata gets out and hits a big knee to the gut. Shibata now just goes into a series of stiff ass kicks. That FIGHTING SPIRIT kicks in as Nakamura pops up after a German and nails a lung blower. He suplexes Shibata over, calling for the Boma Ye. Shibata stops that with a kick of his own and both men are down. Time for the Shibata sleeper but Nakamura ducks the Penalty Kick that usually follows. He comes off the second rope with a knee and then nails a variation of the Boma Ye for two! He tries but again, Shibata stops it with a dropkick. Shibata then busts out the fucking Go to Sleep and picks up the victory with the Penalty Kick.

Winner: Katsuyori Shibata in 15:27
Match of the night so far for me. This is exactly how I wanted this match to go. Just allow these two to have a stiff match with some quality near falls. I liked that Shibata had to reach into his bag of tricks and pull out the GTS because Nakamura was able to survive the sleeper a bit. They had each other well scouted and it worked great. ****¼

Block B
AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada

The reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion here is AJ Styles. Looking at Block B, I would have figured these two were the favorites. It was Okada that Styles won the title from, ending a near 400 day run for the “Rainmaker.” They go through a series of WRASSLIN to start, with Okada having an advantage that frustrates AJ. Styles is able to send Okada outside and, as he rolls him back inside, says “what a good guy I am.” He’s done so well as a heel. He hits a backbreaker for two. Okada comes back with a flapjack and kips up. He has this showoff attitude that makes him kind of a dick but it works. Okada dropkicks him from the top to the outside. He sends AJ into the guardrail, which we’ve seen a ton tonight, but AJ leaps over. That’s kind of become a staple of his matches. He celebrates only to be met with a sweet cross body over the railing by Okada. Back inside, they have some back and forth action, highlighted by AJ hitting a corner exploder. AJ tries his springboard 450 splash, which he won the TNA World Title with in 2009, but misses. AJ holds the ropes to avoid Okada’s dropkick before we get a ref bump. Uh-oh. Okada hits an elbow and calls for the Rainmaker but Yujiro Takahashi interferes. The fans sound so disappointed in this. Okada dropkicks him into oblivion. The distraction does nearly swing the momentum, but Okada wins an exchange with the tombstone before getting two on a German. He holds onto it, picking AJ back up and winning with the Rainmaker.

Winner: Kazuchika Okada in 18:03
I prefer their match at Dominion in 2015 by a fair amount honestly. Granted, this wasn’t bad, but it isn’t the best work they can do. The interference, while only being kept to one Bullet Club member, hurt this for me. On a show with none of that, I hated having it in the main event. Especially since it didn’t do anything. It’s not like it would be used as a reason for Okada losing as he just overcame it. It’s still a good match, but it isn’t the great one I was hoping for. ***½

Overall: 8/10. I thought this was a damn good start to the G1 Climax. There aren’t really any bad matches on the show except for the very short Yano/Suzuki bout. I even felt that Anderson/Tenzan and Benjamin/Gallows were watchable. Nakamura/Shibata stole the show, but the Tanahashi/Honma and especially the Nagata/Kojima match are ones to go out of your way to see. This series of reviews is getting started on the right foot.