Wednesday, April 20, 2016
G1 Climax 23 Night One Review
A few months back, I went and reviewed the G1 Climax 24. It was my first viewing of the entire tournament, which turned out to be the greatest wrestling tournament I’ve ever witnessed. For those unaware, it’s a giant round robin tournament featuring two blocks of ten wrestlers each. Each guy faces the other nine in their block, earning two points for their wins. The two winners of each block meet in the finals and the winner gets an IWGP Heavyweight Title shot at Wrestle Kingdom.
The A Block is loaded. It includes Davey Boy Smith Jr., Hirooki Goto (2008 winner), Hiroshi Tanahashi (2007 winner), Katsuyori Shibata, Kazuchika Okada (2012 winner), Lance Archer, Prince Devitt, Satoshi Kojima (2010 winner), Togi Makabe (2009 winner) and Tomohiro Ishii.
In the B Block, you still have talent. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2003, 2004 & 2006 winner), Karl Anderson, Kota Ibushi, Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin, Shinsuke Nakamura (2011 winner), Tetsuya Naito, Toru Yano, Yuji Nagata (2001 winner) and Yujiro Takahashi.
Toru Yano, ever the sneaky bastard, attacks at the bell. He throws Kota Ibushi outside and hits him with a chair before sending him deep into the crowd. He also unties the turnbuckle cover. Kota beats the count but continues to take a beating in the ring. Yano does his signature taunt, which frees Ibushi to catch his breath. He sends Yano outside and scores with a pretty moonsault. Ibushi continues with some high impact offense until Yano gets his knees up on another moonsault, rolling through for a near fall. He also gets two on a rollup after a drop toe hold into the exposed middle turnbuckle. Yano tries to distract the referee and get a low blow but Ibushi avoids and hits a kick followed by a bridging German. He nails the Phoenix Splash for the first tournament win.
Decent little opening contest here. There may be better choices to kick off a show on the card though. Toru Yano was his usual self and Kota Ibushi had to persevere through it. Not bad, but not very good either.
In the past two G1’s, Tomohiro Ishii has been one of my favorite performers but it looks like this was his first appearance in one. The height difference between these two is pretty nuts. Ishii can’t take down Lance Archer no matter how hard he tries. His chops have ZERO effect on Archer, who just swats him down with one strike. Archer is completely dominating. It takes everything in Ishii’s power to start rallying and he finally hits a suplex that the crowd pops for. He follows with a German that the crowd loves even more. Archer stops his comeback with a splash and Bossman slam. He sucked so badly in TNA and WWE, but seems to be completely different in Japan. A Chokeslam earns him two. He looks for his finisher but Ishii survives and starts leveling him. Archer fights him off and goes up top, where Ishii stops him. Some headbutts from Ishii are followed by an insanely impressive second rope Brainbuster. A lariat somehow only gets two. They go through an exchange that sees Archer hit a snap reverse DDT for another near fall. Archer then nails the Blackout to score the win.
In his first G1 Climax match, Tomohiro Ishii delivered the goods that he would become known for. It told the story of Ishii trying to overcome his huge size disadvantage with his hard hitting style. The false finishes near the end were really good and the crowd helped.
While he wasn’t one of the bigger guys in WWE, Shelton X Benjamin has portrayed a bit of a monster like heel when I see him in NOAH. Here, he does overpower Tenzan in the early goings. Tenzan starts in with his Mongolian chops, which the crowd loves. A superkick and neckbreaker but Shelton back in the driver’s seat. He pummels Tenzan and take shim outside. Tenzan blocks a suplex before countering with one of his own. Back inside, Tenzan goes up top and hits a face crusher like move, driving his knee into Shelton’s back. Shelton escapes the Anaconda Vice, but Tenzan is still in control. He goes up again, only for Shelton to leap up and reach him. Tenzan knocks him off but misses a headbutt. Shelton strikes Paydirt for the 1-2-3.
This was kind of just there. They did some pretty solid stuff, but something was missing to keep it from fully clicking. Hopefully we get better performances from both men down the line. This was just average.
These two would meet in the G1 again in 2014, which is a match I gave ***½. Let’s see if their first match topped it. They start here by exchanging holds, jockeying for position. Smith slams Shibata to the ground and works a chinlock. Smith beats up Shibata outside, but back in, Shibata starts firing off some uppercuts. There’s that hard hitting style he’s so well known for. He reels some vicious kicks until Smith catches one and suplexes him over for two. Smith reaches into his family’s bag of tricks, applying the Sharpshooter. Shibata survives and locks in his sleeper hold. Smith gets out with a back suplex for two. He nails a powerbomb and covers, but Shibata kicks out and instantly applies a triangle choke. Smith tries to lift him for another powerbomb but is too weak. Shibata lets go, hits the PK and gets two points.
Similar to the match I saw between them previously, this was solid. Davey Boy Smith Jr. has gotten better since leaving the WWE, while Shibata is almost always good. They work well together, making for a good, but not great match.
I saw these two meet more than a few times. They’re usually solid, but nothing more. I’ve never seen anything in Takahashi at all. Early on they go through a feeling out process. As former tag partners, they know each other well, so it’s tough to gain an upper hand. Naito uses his quickness to nail a dropkick. Takahashi utilizes a second rope front suplex to start taking control. A fisherman buster follows shortly after, with him being in firm control. Naito starts applying submissions until Takahashi reaches the ropes. They fight up top where Takahashi nails a low blow, sending Naito crashing to the mat. Naito doesn’t let that stop him, nearly hitting big offense but Takahasi counters. He hits a bridging German for a close near fall. He then hits Tokyo Pimps and wins.
As with most of their matches, this wasn’t bad. It was fast paced and featured some pretty cool offense by both guys. There wasn’t much psychology behind things though, making it seem like a bit of a moves exhibition. The surprising result was a nice touch, even if I dislike Takahashi.
Who doesn’t love watching two old dudes beat each other up? That’s exactly how this starts, as both men exchange strikes. The fight spills outside where Suzuki continues to be the badass that we know and love. Nagata gets in some shots but Suzuki aggressively goes after the leg, even shoving officials away. He wraps Nagata’s leg around the guardrail and slams a chair on it. Inside, Suzuki slaps on a submission but still gets in some strikes while the hold is applied. Nagata comes back with kicks, at least having the common sense to not use the busted leg. Minoru has some of his own for Yuji. Nagata fights back, looking for the armbar but can’t get it. He just goes to hitting armbreakers instead. Then, he gets it locked in. Suzuki survives and they just go back to slapping the hell out of each other. Suzuki wins out, sending Nagata to the mat. Suzuki locks in a sleeper hold, which is like the third I’ve seen tonight. Nagata rallies, hitting an exploder and spinning heel kick. Nagata wins a slap exchange, before nailing a badass looking exploder to win.
Best match of the night so far. It had two guys kicking each other’s asses, with one focusing on the arm and the other focusing on the leg. I liked that as it give each guy’s offense a very distinct feel. The level these two can consistently go at despite their age is always so high. It’s basically two tough bastards trying to see who the tougher man is. I like it.
Both guys seem pumped from the start, hitting each other pretty hard. Goto is going after the leg, which seems to be bandaged up. Things spill outside where Makabe clotheslines Goto over the rail and into the crowd. Inside, they just wail on each other for a bit. It’s as if they saw the previous match and wanted to try and top it in terms of toughness. Goto starts laying in the lariats, keeping Makabe down. They exchange some forearm shots now, with Goto seemingly winning out, only to run into a powerslam. Goto comes back with a big neckbreaker, but can’t keep the former G1 Climax winner down. Makabe nails a huge lariat but can’t make the cover. Up top, Makabe hits the Spider German and the King Kong Knee Drop, earning the victory.
As noted, it seemed like they wanted to one up the Suzuki/Nagata fight. They didn’t quite reach their level, but this was still one hell of a match in its own right. I don’t usually love Makabe, but he certainly has his days and this was one of them.
Karl Anderson made the finals of the 2012 G1 Climax, becoming the first American to do so since Rick Rude. Shinsuke Nakamura is the reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Unlike some other matches, this starts quickly. Both men go for a fast exchange, rather than a slow paced feeling out process. However, like other matches, it goes outside early. Nakamura hits a running knee, but then gets kicked into the crowd. With that, Anderson takes over, beating on Nakamura. Anderson portrays a solid heel, even resorting to biting Nakamura. Nakamura starts to rally, hitting some of his signature offense. Anderson comes back with a running powerbomb but can only get a near fall. Strike exchange time. Anderson doesn’t win out, but is able to hit a TKO for two. Nakamura is up, hitting a suplex but has the Boma Ye countered. He slips free and goes for it again, but Anderson dodges and nails a neckbreaker for one. Bernard Driver connects and Anderson again can’t put down the IC Champion. He uses the Gun Stun to end things.
I’ve now seen these two wrestle three or four times and they never have a bad match. This was wasn’t their best but it was still damn good. They worked seamlessly and I bought into many of the near falls in the end. Another solid match for this show.
These two would have a pretty great match in the G1 the following year. They go through an early back and forth that Kojima wins with a big shoulder block. He does some flexing afterwards. Tanahashi nails a cross body, arm drag and dropkick, causing Kojima to regroup outside. Outside, Kojima ends up nearly killing Tanahashi with a massive apron DDT. The fans are firmly behind the veteran here. Tanahashi beats the count at 17 but keeps taking a beating. When he gets in some shots, the crowd boos. They pop for everything Kojima does, especially his flurry of corner chops. Kojima nails a top rope elbow for two. Tanahashi starts the comeback with a flying forearm. Tanahashi hits some more offense, but Kojima stops him in his tracks with another DDT. Both looked great. He sets Tanahashi up top and lariats him to the floor outside. Back inside, Kojima nails a Brainbuster but Tanahashi survives. Tanahashi blocks a lariat but still ends up eating one for another near fall. Time for the Tanahashi special stuff, including the Slingblade. He looks for High Fly Flow but Kojima gets the knees up. He hits a lariat to the back of the head and removes the elbow pad. Tanahashi ducks two lariats and slips before getting caught with the third for two. Kojima strikes with one more lariat and wins but the referee botches it. He dead stops the count at two, before lightly slapping the mat for three. It killed the crowd’s response to the win.
Damn good match up until that horrible referee both in the end. Satoshi Kojima had to dig way deep and find something, anything that would be enough to defeat Tanahashi. It took multiple lariats but he finally did it. The upset was great to see and the crowd was MOLTEN hot for it.
Kind of surprising to see Prince Devitt in the G1 since it’s traditionally a heavyweight tournament and he is the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion here. Kazuchika Okada holds the IWGP Heavyweight Title at this time. A few weeks before this, they met for the Heavyweight Title and Okada came out on top. Their first time locking up is won out by Okada. An irritated Devitt chooses to get in a cheap kick to take Okada down. Things move outside because a G1 match isn’t complete without that. Devitt sits Okada by the guardrail before running and dropkicking him. Inside, Devitt nails a loud chop and wears down Okada. Devitt makes a mistake by going high risk, eating an uppercut and DDT for his troubles. Okada nails the top rope elbow and RAINMAKER POSE! Devitt avoids the signature dropkick, hitting one of his own in the corner. They start exchanging forearms in the middle of the ring. Devitt nails Bloody Sunday, but it’s not enough. Okada comes back with a Tombstone and tries the Rainmaker but Devitt pulls the official in the way. This allows Bad Luck Fale to get in the ring and attack Okada. Gedo hops in to hit Fale with a chair but it has no effect. Fale puts him down with ease and then plants Okada with a Samoan drop. The referee is up as Devitt gets two on a rollup with a handful of tights. Okada hits the big dropkick but Devitt avoids the Rainmaker. He sends Okada into the ropes, where Fale levels him with a chair. Bloody Sunday hits and Devitt gets the W.
A solid enough match, but it didn’t have a big main event feel. Since Okada beat Devitt in their title match shortly before this, I kind of expected Devitt to even the score here. The interference makes sense but was a bit much here with the ref bump, two moves from Fale and Gedo all coming into play.
Overall: This was a solid show as a whole. Nothing outside of Nagata/Suzuki was must see, but most of the show was strong. Kojima/Tanahashi was reaching greatness levels until the lame finish. I wouldn’t say any of the matches were bad and it was an easy watch in the end. There are ten matches on the show, seven of which get at least three stars and none clock in under two.
Prince Devitt 2 points
Satoshi Kojima 2 points
Katsuyori Shibata 2 points
Togi Makabe 2 points
Lance Archer 2 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi 0 points
Kazuchika Okada 0 points
Tomohiro Ishii 0 points
Davey Boy Smith Jr. 0 points
Hirooki Goto 0 points
Karl Anderson 2 points
Kota Ibushi 2 points
Yuji Nagata 2 points
Shelton X Benjamin 2 points
Yujiro Takahashi 2 points
Shinsuke Nakamura 0 points
Tetsuya Naito 0 points
Minoru Suzuki 0 points
Toru Yano 0 points
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 0 points