Wednesday, November 18, 2015
So here it is. After 11 shows I have reached the finals of the G1 Climax. This show is set up differently than the other cards as not everything is a singles match since the tournament is over outside of the finals between Nakamura and Okada. Actually, there is also a match to determine third place so there are some tournament implications here.
The opening to this show is a bit different as it shows various highlights throughout this breathtaking tournament. The show is being run in a baseball stadium so it looks pretty cool.
After their performances in the G1, I’m all about seeing more from Davey and Archer. On the flipside, the less I see of Taguchi, the happier I am. Being the heel group, Suzuki-Gun attacks at the bell. They start to work on Tiger Mask, with the Killer Elite Squad doing most of the damage. Tiger Mask manages to make a tag and Kojima comes in with his signature stuff. Everybody actually ends up kind of doing their thing, though it all seems rushed. I find out why when Taguchi hits Dodon and wins in short order.
I think that this worked well as an opener in theory, but the execution was off. They knew they were only getting about six minutes and tried to cram a lot into that time. Due to that, it all felt rushed and nothing lasted long enough for anyone to really care.
This is the first I’m seeing of BUSHI. Gallows and Nakanishi start, trying to overpower one another. BUSHI comes in and gives us a change of pace, quickening things until he eats a hot shot. Being the little man on his team, BUSHI starts to take the heat as the Bullet Club seem to have fun tossing him around. Nagata gets tagged and works some fun stuff with Fale before delivering suplexes to Gallows and Takahashi. He gets the armbar on Fale but Takahashi makes it in to break the hold. BUSHI rolls up Takahashi and rolls around to make him dizzy. Things break down as the other four men start brawling on the outside, meaning the finish is probably coming. The NEVER Champion and BUSHI stumble through their next spot before Takahashi wins with a buckle bomb and Miami Shine.
Better than the opener but still nothing you need to see. BUSHI seemed energized and Yuji Nagata was awesome as always, but everyone else seemed to be going through the motions. Decent at best.
So far tonight, outside of a few moments, the crowd is pretty dead. I don’t know if they can get any more quiet than they are here. Shelton does some basic stuff with YOSHI-HASHI but nobody cares about it. Then, things went outside where Iizuka hit YOSHI with a chair. Iizuka and Yano do some stuff in the ring that isn’t very good. The match has pretty much just been all brawling, though there seems to be an emphasis on Suzuki and Sakuraba, who would meet about five months later at Wrestle Kingdom 9. These two grapple until Suzuki applies a submission on the ropes and doesn’t let go, causing the DQ.
Man, I rarely write about disqualifications in New Japan. This might be my first actually. I enjoyed almost none of the match but I id like the finish here. It isn’t the best but it set up the Suzuki/Sakuraba WK9 match, which was contested under UWFI rules.
The NJPW cameramen REALLY love Maria Kanellis and I love them for it. Cole and Liger start with a solid little exchange. Bennett comes in, and must know of Captain New Japan’s win loss record, because he wants to face him. Outside, he gets his face shoved into Maria’s breasts. I mean, there are worse ways for the match to go downhill for you. He starts to take the heat as Cole and Bennett work pretty well as a unit. Captain New Japan manages to fight out and make the hot tag to Liger, who the crowd is very into. He and Cole again work some fun stuff, including a near fall on a small package from Liger before going old school with a double clothesline spot. Both guys tag out and the Captain actually looks like he’s nearing a victory. Maria gets on the apron and pulls off a Miss Elizabeth at SummerSlam like distraction, which the cameraman nails. This leads to the finish following a Bennett piledriver.
Solid, good old fashioned tag team wrestling here. They didn’t try to do anything out of this world and just focused on classic tag formula, which worked well. I even liked how they managed to incorporate Maria into the match and Captain Ne Japan’s reaction to her adds at least ¼ of a star to the score.
Since I began watching New Japan, the Jr. Divisions have been lacking, but these are easily my two favorite teams from the Jr. Tag ranks. This also happens to be the NJPW debut of reDRagon. Early on, the champs hold serve with a series of arm wringers and quick tags. The double teams move that they bust out come at a quick pace, reminding me of the Motor City Machine Guns. When reDRagon takes over, they are allowed to get their shit in, showing the fans of New Japan what they can do. A big spot comes as KUSHIDA goes to the top and hits a cross body to the outside over the guardrail onto the challengers. reDRagon comes very close on a top rope falcon arrow from Fish. Shelley then saves his partner from Chasing the Dragon, only to get taken out himself with a backbreaker/knee drop combination. O’Reilly hits a Brainbuster and when KUSHIDA kicks out, pulls his arm right into an armbar but it gets broken up. KUSHIDA and O’Reilly have a great exchange near the end. Their chemistry was on point from here, got better at their next match and was at its peak during their Best of the Super Juniors Final a year later. KUSHIDA gets him in Kimura as Fish desperately tries to make the save. Shelley holds him off, knocks him outside and hits a suicide dive. With no help in sight, O’Reilly taps.
That’s the big upswing in quality that this show needed. This was about as good a debut as reDRagon could have hoped for. They looked great as a credible threat to the titles and it solidified them as a team to reckon with. They would go on to win the belts later that year. These two teams would have better matches down the line, but this was a good start. I liked how the previous match was old school tag style and this was much more of the modern style.
During intermission, Jeff Jarrett and Scott D’Amore come out to Jarrett’s old TNA theme like it’s Impact in 2005. They sign a contract forming a partnership between NJPW and GFW. All that really ever comes from this is that Wrestle Kingdom 9 was aired in the US with Jim Ross and Matt Striker on commentary. At least I think that was all. I’m not 100% sure.
Nothing on the line here but Honma is super over thanks to his G1 efforts. I don’t speak Japanese but I believe commentary talks about how Naito beat both Okada and Styles during the tournament. He gets a pretty grand entrance. As expected in a Honma match, he misses the early headbutt only this time it happens twice. Naito dropkicks him and them mocks his taunt, drawing heat from the crowd. I love seeing early signs of heel Naito, which has become one of my favorite things in all of wrestling. He continues to play the dick role with the crowd behind Honma. Honma gets a close call on a powerbomb followed by a Brainbuster but can’t put the 2013 G1 winner away. He misses Kokeshi, leading to a fun forearm battle and a big headbutt from Honma. He also gets two on a rollup that the fans bite on. Shortly after, Naito just hits Stardust Press and wins.
I felt like this was a solid match that was missing something. Honma is a great underdog and Naito playing the role of the heel made that work even better. However, just as the match seemed to be getting to the good stuff, it ended kind of abruptly.
Right from the start, Karl Anderson targets the legit injured shoulder of Ishii. It’s crazy that after hurting his shoulder, the quality of his matches didn’t see a drop. Takahashi gets in some cheap shots outside as Ishii sells the shoulder. I wasn’t able to see it happen but something has given Ishii a bloody nose. It may even be broken. Because he’s Ishii though, he fires up, giving us a cool visual with all of the blood on his face. In an extremely scary moment, Ishii tries a superplex but his shoulder gives out and he nearly breaks Anderson’s neck. It becomes hard to watch some of what follows as Ishii is clearly in a lot of pain through everything that they do. He does manage to hit a regular Brainbuster but Takahashi pulls the referee out and attacks Ishii. This brings out Ishii’s Chaos buddy YOSHI-HASHI to send Takahashi off. Anderson hits the Bernard Driver for a near fall. Ishii tries another Brainbuster but it is reversed into the Gun Stun to end things.
Tons of props to Tomohiro Ishii for making it through that match. Despite the obvious issues that he was having, they managed to put on a good match, though it was hard to watch at times. The interference didn’t negatively impact this either, which isn’t always the case.
These two men would end up going on to win the IWGP Tag Team Titles at Wrestle Kingdom 9. There is an early battle of forearms, with neither man really giving an inch. Following this, things seem to slow down a bit, but that’s understandable given the nature of the early stuff. Both guys just start back suplexing each other in a row. Goto hits a backbreaker and a knee to the chest that seems to possibly really hurt Shibata. He takes a while recovering outside and even when he comes back in, he looks to not be in tip top shape. Shibata still manages to hit a GTS that looks like it really hurt Goto’s jaw. Goto comes back with shots but then Shibata just ends him with a sick spinning back fist. It’s up there among my favorite moves because it’s just so vicious. He hits a second GTS, that isn’t as good as the first, and wins with the PK.
A good match here, with a great finishing stretch. They started hot, cooled a bit towards the middle, but picked up the pace in the end. I’ve heard that they’ve had better matches together, which I’ll have to check out. Good to see Shibata win on the final show since he was so good throughout the tournament.
Tanahashi wants this to be a one on one encounter and AJ obliges by sending Doc Gallows and Bad Luck Fale to the back. The crowd is pretty umped as the two men go through a feeling out process. Tanahashi hits the first big move, a cross body, and forces AJ to regroup outside. Tanahashi taunts which clearly bugs AJ. He comes back with his signature dropkick and does his own taunt. AJ reminds everyone that he is absolutely the heel here, crotching Tanahashi and shaking the ropes while doing so. They go through a series of counters that ends when Tanahashi front suplexes AJ onto the top rope. It comes off wrong and AJ is nearly thrown straight to the floor. Outside, Tanahashi leaps over the guardrail to cross body the IWGP Champion. Back inside, they exchange kicks and strikes before Tanahashi gets two on a German. AJ comes back with some offense of his own, really hammering home that neither guy has a clear advantage. More strikes and then Tanahashi hits a dragon suplex for two. AJ nails a big top rope rana and looks for the Styles Clash but Tanahashi fights it so he just chooses to drop him on his head instead. He goes for a frog plash but Tanahashi gets his knees up, and AJ does the same when Tanahashi tries for High Fly Flow. Styles nails a great looking Bloody Sunday and goes for the Styles Clash, but Tanahashi counters into a cradle to earn the 1-2-3.
Just a really great match between these two. It was even throughout and made sure that neither guy came out looking better than the other, especially with how the finish came. I took this as AJ Styles, the current champion, wanting to prove that he was better than the “ace” of New Japan. AJ sending the Bullet Club back, the counters and close calls all worked towards this.
After the match, the Bullet Club show up to beat down on Hiroshi Tanahashi. AJ Styles caps this with a Styles Clash, until Jeff Jarrett and Scott D’Amore run in to send them packing. D’Amore takes out Jarrett’s guitar as he helps Tanahashi up. Jarrett’s guitar says “Bullet Club” and he breaks it over Tanahashi’s head before revealing a Bullet Club shirt. Yea, despite my love for AJ Styles, I’m not big on the Bullet Club. The crowd doesn’t even really boo this but it seems like they really don’t care.
Just like the last match, this starts with the men jockeying for an advantage, but neither seeming to grab one. They spill outside for a short time, where Okada applies a chinlock on the guardrail. They are stablemates but things get more physical as the match progresses thanks to what’s at stake. Nakamura goes into some of his trademark stuff, hitting a knee drop on the apron. He stays in control until Okada awkwardly sets him up top and dropkicks him off and to the outside. Okada hits the elbow inside and calls for the Rainmaker. Nakamura is ready and counters into a lung blower though. They go back and forth for a bit, with Nakamura trying an armbar and delivering some more vicious knee strikes. He misses the Boma Ye and eats the Air Raid backbreaker. Okada then nails a dropkick to the back of the head followed by the tombstone. He looks for the Rainmaker again, but Nakamura counters it into a cross armbreaker in fantastic fashion. To break it, Okada has to get to his feet and stomp on Nakamura. Nakamura quickly hits Boma Ye but is too tired to cover instantly. When they get up, they trade blows and Okada hits another dropkick. Nakamura comes back with another Boma Ye but can’t get the win. A German from Okada can’t do the trick either and Nakamura goes for a third Boma Ye but it gets blocked. Okada then uses a backslide for two, but goes right into some short clotheslines. He finishes the flurry with a Rainmaker that Nakamura flips inside out for and wins the G1 Climax.
A rather fitting end to this great tournament. I don’t believe it was up there with the absolute classics that this G1 has delivered, but it was still great. The first few minutes aren’t the most entertaining, but I like them building towards the bigger stuff. They would have a better match a year later, but this was a really good way to end things.
Overall: . If you cut out the first three matches, you’d have a pretty fantastic show. Outside of those relative stinkers, every match comes in around three or more stars. The final two matches are great, the other singles matches are good and the tag matches are enjoyable. Against the rest of this tournament, a disappointing show, but still pretty good.