Friday, June 10, 2016

NJPW G1 Climax 23 Night Four Review

G1 Climax 23 Day Four
August 4th, 2013 | Osaka, Japan

So far, we’ve had two good nights (one and three) and one damn near great one (two). I’ve seen one match from this show in the past and it is one of my all-time favorites, so I’m excited for the rest of the event.

Block B
Toru Yano (0) vs. Yujiro Takahashi (6)

The unbeaten Yujiro Takahashi attacks during Toru Yano’s entrance and follows with a suicide dive. Takahashi throws him around outside and nails him with a chair. Things move inside eventually, where Takahashi just stays in control. After a while of that, Yano avoids running into the exposed buckle and Takahashi eats it instead. Yano slams him down and does his signature taunt. Yano slingshots him into the exposed buckle as well. I don’t think it can even really be a Yano match without those corner spots. Despite allowing all of this, the referee stops Yano from doing a low blow. Takahashi shoves Yano into him and then brings out a steel chair. It backfires when Yano gets his hands on it and pulls an Eddie Guerrero. With the referee removing the chair, Yano does two low blows and pulls Yujiro into a cradle for three.

Winner: Toru Yano (2) in 7:04
Kind of an expected result given their stats entering the match. The early portions of Takahashi dominating were pretty uninteresting, though I found the match became more enjoyable after Yano got going. **

Block B
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2) vs. Karl Anderson (4)

I saw these two have a match in the G1 a year later and it wasn’t very good. Hopefully this one is better. This gets off to your basic start, including Tenzan showing that he’s too strong for Anderson to shoulder block. Anderson responds with Mongolian chops, like a dick. Anderson stays in control for a bit, with Tenzan squeezing in Mongolian chops at every opening, albeit mostly small ones. Tenzan comes off the top with a headbutt but it’s not enough to keep Anderson down. He locks in the Anaconda Vice, but Anderson wiggles to the ropes and breaks it. Anderson ends up calling for the Gun Stun but Tenzan has a lovely counter ready, dropping him with a Uranage and putting the vice back on. Anderson fights to his feet, but is taken back down. He survives it and avoids the Tenzan moonsault before trying another Gun Stun. It too gets blocked and Tenzan is feeling it. He goes for another Uranage but this time it is Anderson who counters into the Stun Gun for the 1-2-3.

Winner: Karl Anderson (6) in 9:55
Much better than the effort they’d put forth a year later. Their exchange of counters was solid and most of what they did worked well. The crowd was hot and bought into most of the close calls. I thought the finish was perfect considering the earlier reversals. ***¼

Block B
Shelton X Benjamin (2) vs. Yuji Nagata (4)

Oh look, the undercard is filled with “B” Block matches again. Shelton doesn’t just attack before the bell, he leaps to the top and suplexes him off. He tries to steal it with an early pin but Nagata gets a shoulder up. Shelton is pretty damn good in this heel role. He is just in firm control, looks to be enjoying and has no problem allowing Taka Michinoku to get in cheap shots outside. He tries to win via countout as well, but Nagata rolls in and removes his shirt, firing up. He just starts kicking Shelton’s ass. A particular kick to the back of the head seems to knock Shelton silly. Nagata follows with a backdrop driver for two though. Shelton catches a kick and locks in the ankle lock. Nagata fights to stay alive, but when Shelton pulls an Angle and grapevines his legs to fully sink it in, he has to give up.

Winner: Shelton X Benjamin (4) in 8:17
This turned out to be a really good match. Shelton came off as desperate for some points with his strategy, while Nagata again played the badass old dude perfectly. Shelton’s early attacks, Nagata’s comebacks and the finishing stretch were all really well done. ***½

Block A
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (2) vs. Satoshi Kojima (4)

These two would have a pretty solid match the following year. This one begins with the expected back and forth. Kojima takes the first real advantage by clotheslining Smith over and outside. It’s that classic G1 ringside brawl. Kojima nails his trademark apron DDT but gets bitten in the ankle by Taka Michinoku, freeing up Smith to get on the offensive. Smith badmouths the fans and wears down Kojima. Kojima comes back, lighting up Smith with chops that the fans go nuts for. A strike exchange follows, which Kojima wins. He looks to be on the verge of a win until that damn Taka Michinoku distracts him. Smith hits a goddamn tiger suplex for two. The fans bite on a near fall following a lariat from Kojima as well. Smith survives some more attacks and wins with a sitout powerbomb.

Winner: Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4) in 11:43
That was, like the last match, a pretty damn good back and forth battle. Kojima continued to show that he is one tough bastard, while Smith had to be cunning and use his power to hang out. This was a fun hard hitting bout. ***½

Block A
Katsuyori Shibata (4) vs. Tomohiro Ishii (2)

Right at the bell, these two just charge at each other and proceed to beat the fuck out of one another. I mean, they literally just destroy each other with forearms, lariats and running kicks. They don’t have your typical forearm exchange, instead seemingly challenging their opponent to hit them harder. Both men literally leave themselves open so the other one can strike. Ishii cracks first, unable to kick because he holds his chest in pain. Shibata pounces, relentlessly delivering forearms in the corner. Ishii screams through the pain, but too many cause him to fall. Shibata follows with a great basement dropkick. After gathering his wits, Ishii now goes on the offensive, just murdering Shibata with vicious shots. Shibata catches a kick from Ishii and hits a big lariat. He applies a Boston crab, but Ishii reaches the ropes, so he pulls him back and works the STF. Ishii survives and then lays out Shibata with a lariat, though he is also down. When they get up, it’s just more abuse from each guy. Shibata takes down Ishii but only gets a count of one! Ishii hits a lariat and also only gets one! They headbutt each other and both just fall out again. The fact that they’re still even able to do anything is nuts. They beat the count and Shibata locks in the sleeper. Ishii looks like he’s about to die in it. He survives that though and we get another series of kick outs at one before Ishii puts Shibata down with a Brainbuster.

Winner: Tomohiro Ishii (4) in 12:17
Holy shit. I said that more times than I could count while watching this. This is just a straight up fight in the best possible way. These are two of the very best at what they do and they work so well together. This had pretty much everything I could want in a match. It was stiff, there was a hot crowd, there was drama and it all just worked. I honestly don’t even have enough words to describe it. Watch it now. It is the best sub-fifteen minute match I have ever seen. *****

Block A
Hirooki Goto (4) vs. Lance Archer (4)

As usual with a Lance Archer match, the size advantage is played into. Goto fires away to start though it doesn’t have much impact. Things move outside, again as usual, where Archer just pounds away on Goto. Goto barely beats the count, entering the ring at nineteen. Archer stays in control for a bit until Goto ducks a shot and hits a big lariat, finally taking the big man down. Goto starts to do better and hits a backdrop suplex for two. Archer ends up hitting a sweeping reverse DDT for a near fall. They end up nailing each other with lariats with neither guy falling. Arches ducks one and hits a full nelson slam for two, growing frustrated that he can’t keep Goto down. Goto goes up top only for Archer to grab him for his finish. Goto slips free, hits a headbutt and spinning lariat before pulling him into a very odd pinning combination, earning the win.

Winner: Hirooki Goto (6) in 8:35
A come down after the previous match but that was to be expected. They did pretty well here, working the size game again. I’ve seen it from Archer often in the G1, but it works rather well so I get sticking to it. ***

Block B
Minoru Suzuki (2) vs. Tetsuya Naito (2)

Minoru Suzuki almost always works a smart match and it’s no different here. He immediately takes Naito to the mat, focusing on the arm, while also negating Naito’s high flying style. He slaps on the rope hung armbar, continuing the focused attack. Of course, there is some outside action where Suzuki kicks Naito’s leg into the guardrail. Minoru is a smart man. He’s simultaneously setting up for his armbar, while also making sure Naito can’t do his best work. He uses a figure four to further the damage. Naito starts a comeback and even puts Minoru in a submission of his own. Unlike his match on night three with Yuji Nagata, Naito is doing a pretty good job of selling the leg. Minoru continues to hone in on the knee, twisting and bending it in awkward ways. When he doesn’t have it in a hold, he’s kicking at it at every opening. Naito survives a sleeper and starts to rally. He does hit a missile dropkick but at least has the mind to limp after hitting it. He finally scores with the Stardust Press.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito (4) in 16:19
Probably the best performance from Naito so far in the tournament. Suzuki was his usual great self. The selling from Naito this time around helped add to it, making his desperate run at the end better. I do wish he found a different way to win instead of doing something that he needed his leg for. Still, a really good match. ***¾

Block A
Hiroshi Tanahashi (2) vs. Prince Devitt (4)

Prince Devitt comes out with a guitar, infringing on Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick. He nails Tanahashi with it during his entrance and then walks around posing with his jacket. Devitt and Fale work him over on the outside, giving us the classic G1 countout tease. Inside, Devitt hits a dropkick that rivals Okada’s. Most of Devitt’s other stuff isn’t too fascinating though. Tanahashi begins mounting his offense. They do the stupid spot where the heels stand there and patiently wait for the face to leap onto them. I literally see Fale and Devitt just calmly wait while Tanahashi does High Fly Flow onto them. Since it’s a Devitt match, we get a ref bump. Fale comes in and whacks Tanahashi with a chair. Captain New Japan runs in to try and make the save but fails. Fale not only levels Tanahashi but Devitt beats him up with a chair. He then hits a diving double stomp onto the chair onto Tanahashi, who just kicks out. Tanahashi gets up and goes into his stuff, coming incredibly close on a straightjacket German. He hits High Fly Flow but Fale is up and choking him before he can do a second. Captain New Japan is up and wails on him to no avail. However, it is distracting enough for Tanahashi to leap, but Devitt gets the knees up. Karl Anderson shows up while Fale has the official and nails Tanahashi with a Stun Gun. Devitt follows up with Bloody Sunday and that’s a wrap.

Winner: Prince Devitt (6) in 11:07
I’ll give the match props for having a ton of heat. The fans were totally into this and everything these guys did. However, like most Devitt and Bullet Club things, it was riddled with far too much overbooking and interference to make it great. ***½

Block A
Kazuchika Okada (2) vs. Togi Makabe (2)

Considering Devitt/Tanahashi and now this matchup, I feel like I’m watching Dominion 2013 all over again. Judging by their styles, you wouldn’t think these two would have great chemistry but they do. A feeling out process opens things with neither man gaining the upper hand. When the match moves outside, Okada takes control by ramming Makabe into the rail. Once back inside, Okada is confident because he’s in firm control. You can just see how smug he is by his face. Makabe slams him from the top rope and then snaps off a powerslam to stop Okada. Okada will not be denied though, withstanding a lariat and going back on the offensive. He hits the elbow and calls for the RAINMAKER! Makabe avoids it before hitting a lariat of his own. He scores a close call with a bridging German. Togi is rolling and hits a powerbomb for another near fall. He ends up hitting the Spider German but misses the King Kong Knee Drop. Once up, Okada strikes with that gorgeous dropkick to the back of the head. Makabe avoids a tombstone but runs into another dropkick. He still manages to block the Rainmaker and hits a DVD for two. In what had to be the closest near fall of the night and maybe even the whole tournament, Makabe ducks a Rainmaker and hits a dragon suplex for two. A lariat and King Kong Knee drop is enough to move Okada to 1-3.

Winner: Togi Makabe (4) in 13:55
Once again, the chemistry between these two just clicks in a way that it doesn’t for other guys. It took a bit to really get going but once it did, this ruled. Great drama, lots of close calls and very crisp work from both men. A great match added to an already great show. ****¼

Block B
Kota Ibushi (6) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (2)

This is a pretty big spot for Kota Ibushi. During the early feeling out process here, Nakamura is kind of toying with Ibushi. Like, he’s testing the waters but also showing him who’s in charge. He has Ibushi scouted, getting in the ring to avoid his trademark moonsault outside and kicking him off the top. Nakamura beats him up outside, complete with a running knee to the back of the head. Once back inside, Nakamura continues to mess with Ibushi, slapping him up. Ibushi isn’t scared though, firing back until Nakamura just destroys him with knee strikes. Ibushi comes back with a backflip kick. A standing shooting star press, followed by a second rope moonsault isn’t enough. With Nakamura outside, Ibushi decides to wow the fans with a corkscrew moonsault that is pretty breathtaking. Now they just move to the stiff stuff with a forearm exchange. Nakamura wins out so Ibushi goes to a combination of slaps and kicks, only for Nakamura to hit a knee and backstabber. This is turning into a war. Ibushi gets two after a dragon suplex and standing corkscrew moonsault. He scores on a vicious kick to the skull that seems to knock Nakamura out. A sitout Last Ride also isn’t enough. Nakamura gets his knees up on the Phoenix Splash and hits Boma Ye to the back to the head. He’s too hurt to pin but ends up stomping the fuck out of Ibushi in the corner. Like a man, Ibushi gets up and strikes the shit out of Shinsuke. After another near fall, Ibushi kicks away at Shinsuke’s head with some serious attitude. Nakamura kicks him away and hits a second rope knee. He nails another and then Boma Ye only for Ibushi to kick out at one! Another Boma Ye is the nail in the coffin, ending things.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (4) in 19:18
This was insane. Nakamura was a dick early on, putting Ibushi in his place. He hit some vicious shots that I thought would end Ibushi, but Ibushi fought back with a vengeance. He came out of this looking like a million bucks. The timing of Ibushi kicking out at one was masterful, bringing the electric crowd to their feet. I can’t say enough about this match. They would top it in the Tokyo Dome in 2015, but this was spectacular and easily the second best match of the tournament so far. ****¾

Overall: 9.5/10. A tremendous event from top to bottom. There is honestly nothing bad on the entire show. Even the opener, which is the worst part of the show, is decently fun. There are some truly incredible matches on this show. Makabe/Okada is great, while Nakamura/Ibushi and Ishii/Shibata are all-time classics. The crowd is molten throughout the evening and this is a must see event. One of, if not the best G1 Climax show I’ve ever watched.

A BlockPointsB BlockPoints
Hirooki Goto6 (3-1)Kota Ibushi6 (3-1)
Prince Devitt6 (3-1)Yujiro Takakashi6 (3-1)
Togi Makabe4 (2-2)Karl Anderson6 (3-1)
Davey Boy Smith Jr.4 (2-2)Tetsuya Naito4 (2-2)
Satoshi Kojima4 (2-2)Shelton X Benjamin4 (2-2)
Lance Archer4 (2-2)Yuji Nagata4 (2-2)
Tomohiro Ishii4 (2-2)Shinsuke Nakamura4 (2-2)
Katsuyori Shibata4 (2-2)Minoru Suzuki2 (1-3)
Kazuchika Okada2 (1-3)Hiroyoshi Tenzan2 (1-3)
Hiroshi Tanahashi2 (1-3)Toru Yano2 (1-3)