Friday, July 1, 2016

G1 Climax 23 Finals Review

G1 Climax 23 Finals
August 11th, 2013 | Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan

We have reached the final night of the G1 Climax 23! With the injuries to Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii (now with 6 points) and Kota Ibushi (now with 8 points) get forfeit wins but were both out of contention anyway.

Block B
Yuji Nagata 8) vs. Yujiro Takahashi (8)

If Takahashi was better in the ring, I’d love him because he certainly brings lovely ladies to the ring. I don’t want to go through everything but I believe both guys are still alive since the leader of the block only has ten points. Nagata’s offense is aimed right Yujiro’s arm, with some kicks and strikes sprinkled in. Takahashi starts getting in his own offense for a bit. He falls for Yuji’s classic fake out dropkick, which always makes me chuckle. Yujiro reels off some big moves for near falls and tries a moonsault. He overshoots it and seems to only catch Nagata with his head so it was like a moonsault headbutt. Nagata ends up applying his armbar, complete with theatrics. Takahashi survives and Nagata has his mouth busted open but he spits it out in a badass visual. Nagata reels off suplexes, capping with an exploder for the win.

Winner: Yuji Nagata (10) in 9:06
A solid opener. Takahashi was much better in this G1 than he would be in the next two years. Nagata spitting out the blood was so insanely cool that it added just a bit more to an already good match. ***¼

Block B
Minoru Suzuki (10) vs. Toru Yano (6)

If Suzuki wins, he wins the block. These two would actually have a feud coming out of this. It should come as no surprise that these two brawl from the start. Both guys are fond of that style. Yano sends him into the exposed buckle and goes for his taunt but Suzuki interrupts. Surprisingly, he slaps him, which of course leads to him getting slapped back. Suzuki has wisely made sure to avoid most of the typical Yano antics and is just relentlessly going after the leg. Things start getting very frantic as both men go for pins. Suzuki does so knowing that he could win it all but Yano doing so because it’s his style. An overconfident Suzuki sticks his tongue out and slaps Yano. He goes for the sleeper but Yano goes under his legs to trip him up and steal a victory.

Winner: Toru Yano (8) in 9:23
I had small expectations for this considering how I’ve felt about their other matches. They exceeded those by a fair amount here. They worked a smart match that allowed Suzuki to still remain dominant but keep the drama of the tournament alive. Suzuki came off like someone who knew how important the match was, making the final few moments exciting. ***

Block B
Shelton X Benjamin (8) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (10)

With a win and a Karl Anderson loss, Nakamura can win the block. Shelton attacks Nakamura during his entrance taunt. Benjamin has played a bit of a bully throughout the tournament but Nakamura isn’t really small so when Shelton tries it, Nakamura is ready to strike back. Benjamin goes after the leg which Nakamura overcomes to start striking with the knee. He sells it well after using it at least. They go back and forth for a bit before Nakamura looks for Boma Ye, only to miss. He hits a second rope knee and goes back up top. Shelton leaps up to get him and brings him over with a T-Bone. Both guys counter each other and Shelton slaps on the ankle lock. Nakamura fights out and looks for Boma Ye. Instead, Shelton catches him with Paydirt and pins the Intercontinental Champion.

Winner: Shelton X Benjamin (10) in 10:34
I’ve always liked these two together. They don’t have standout matches but they’re always good stuff. This was more of the same. They complimented each other well, worked at a good pace and put together a really good match. The surprise win was welcome too. ***½

Block B
Karl Anderson (10) vs. Tetsuya Naito (8)

Since Suzuki and Nakamura lost, the winner of this match advances to the finals. Naito was in last place pretty much entering the previous show. There is a feeling out process to start things out. Anderson pulls out tons of dirty tricks like stealing Naito’s taunt and not giving a clean break. Naito tries uses his speed but Anderson is smart and grounds him. Each time Naito gets a window of opportunity, Anderson is ready to stop. Naito finally hits a flying forearm, starting a sustained rally fueled with enziguris. They get into a battle of strikes that Anderson holds the advantage in before he wipes out Naito with a running kick. They end up fighting on the top and jockeying for position. Anderson wins out with a second rope Gun Stun variation but Naito kicks out. Bernard Driver connected and again Naito kicks out. The fans absolutely bought that as the finish and saw Anderson making his second straight finals. Naito blocks a Gun Stun, gets a victory roll for two, blocks another Gun Stun and somehow applies the Koji Clutch. Anderson taps out.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito (10) in 13:11
Given his placement in the standings a few nights ago, I would have never picked Naito to win. This was a great way to do it as well. Anderson made the finals last year and there were certainly some great near falls here to make you believe it was happening again. Naito had to overcome a lot and I’m glad he found a way to win that wasn’t the Phoenix Splash. ***¾

Block A
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (10) vs. Lance Archer (6)

These two are a tag team and at this point, hold the GHC Tag Team Titles. They fire up at the same time after the bell and just go right at each other aggressively. It’s pretty fun because they’re just beating the hell out of each other. Archer goes all Undertaker with an Old School rope walk. It’s cool to see Archer face someone that can match his power, since there aren’t many in the tournament. Smith hits a Chokeslam, which I didn’t think he had in him. Archer comes back with a barely hit moonsault and looks for his finisher. Smith slips free and hits a tiger suplex for two. They trade offense, with neither guy gaining a true upper hand. Archer sets Smith up on the top and fires away. This time, he’s able to carry him out for the Blackout, preventing his teammate from winning A Block.

Winner: Lance Archer (8) in 14:37
That was great for the first few minutes. Then they had to slow the pace a bit because they were going nearly fifteen minutes. If you give them 10-12 minutes instead, I think this ends up being better. Even so, what we got was hard hitting fun and I’m never against that. ***

Block A
Prince Devitt (8) vs. Togi Makabe (10)

A win here would put Togi Makabe in great positioning as he’d win this block. That hasn’t worked out for many people tonight so far though. Devitt has a weird monkey mask on, which I guess is to mock Togi. Togi quickly knocks it off. It doesn’t take long for some Bad Luck Fale shenanigans to allow Devitt to take control. When Makabe starts to rally, Devitt brings a chair into play but has it punched into his face. Fale gets on the apron but is knocked off. After Devitt’s ineffective double stomp, we get more Fale interference with a chair shot and Samoan drop. Devitt hits another diving stomp, onto chairs, and again someone kicks out of it. Why even try it at this point? Makabe hits a powerbomb and has it won but the referee is down so Fale comes in and attacks. After all of that, Bloody Sunday puts down Makabe.

Winner: Prince Devitt (10) in 8:43
Devitt matches have been riddled with overbooking but this was ridiculous. So much extra nonsense in so little time. The worst thing on the show so far. **

Block A
Kazuchika Okada (9) vs. Satoshi Kojima (6)

I wonder what would happen if Okada wins here and Tanahashi wins his match. They’d be tied at 11 and their head to head tiebreaker would be moot since they went to a draw. Ah, this is how some of my favorite Okada stuff goes. He’s a brash, cocky youngster against a hard hitting veteran that wants to put him in his place. After an early Rainmaker pose from Okada, Kojima proceeds to take him to the woodshed and do the pose himself. Okada turns it back around, steps on Kojima and taunts again. This trend continues for a bit until Okada starts to realize that he’s going to have to really earn these two points. He hits the elbow and does the official Rainmaker pose. Kojima has none of that, busting out his tag partner’s (Tenzan) Mongolian chops. They begin to trade forearm shots until Kojima nails a short Brainbuster for two. We get a Rainmaker tease after a dropkick to the back of the head but Kojima avoids it. Okada gets a second dropkick but has it reversed again. He goes it for a third time but Kojima just lays him out with his own lariat. He scores on a second one that keeps the Heavyweight Champion down.

Winner: Satoshi Kojima (8) in 11:56
A great match between two really good guys that played their roles to perfection. Kojima was the angry old man and Okada was the arrogant young guy and it played off well. Kojima was sure to avoid the Rainmaker, knowing it could spell doom. The booking of this final night has been great to build suspense. ****

Block A
Hiroshi Tanahashi (9) vs. Katsuyori Shibata (10)

The winner of this wins their block and faces Tetsuya Naito in the finals. Tanahashi wants a lock up but Shibata just slaps him as if to say, we’re gonna do this my way. Shibata goes in for the test of strength this time and Tanahashi slaps him back, leading to an exchange of strikes. Tanahashi avoids some of Shibata’s big kicks before taking a powder. Shibata applies a figure four, leading them to slap each other. He continues to fire away on Tanahashi with vicious strikes. Even when Tanahashi catches a kick, Tanahashi reels off about fifteen slaps though it doesn’t stop Tanahashi from hitting some dragon screws. Back to a war of shots, which Tanahashi seems to be surprisingly winning. It is Tanahashi who goes for the headbutt first, though the one Shibata retaliates with sends them both down. Shibata gets his knees up on High Fly Flow and locks in the sleeper. When that doesn’t work, Shibata pulls out a move in honor of his injured partner (like Kojima did earlier) and hits Goto’s signature neckbreaker. He goes back to the sleeper and Tanahashi looks out of it. Shibata goes for the finish with the Go to Sleep but on his way down, Tanahashi somehow pulls him into a small package.

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi (11) in 10:56
Another awesome battle here. I love their G1 24 match since it was a Shibata style match and wasn’t a big fan of their G1 25 match. This lied in the middle, but closer to the 24 one. Shibata shined as the badass striker, while Tanahashi had to dig deep and rely on a small package to just barely eke out the win. Seeing Tanahashi try to match Shibata and hold his own, but not be able to fully best Shibata if it wasn’t for a flash pin was great. ****

Akebono, Kazushi Sakuraba and Kota Ibushi vs. Takashi Iizuka, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI
Takashi Iizuka is insane, spraying something at the announcer. He brawls outside with Sakuraba early. Inside, Sakuraba lays into him with a flurry of right hands before Akebono gets in some stuff and Ibushi dives out onto his opponents. The camerawork for this move is worse than current WWE production. Ishii and Ibushi, the two guys who got points via forfeit, do battle in the middle of the ring and it’s glorious. They hit each other hard and give you a glimpse of what an awesome prolonged feud between them would be. Iizuka and Sakuraba don’t stop brawling outside and through the crowd. Unfortunately, it was here that my DVD began to skip and mess up. I wasn’t able to catch a bunch here, but I did see that Sakuraba made YOSHI-HAHSI tap to a Kimura. I looked up the runtime online.

Winners: Akebono, Kazushi Sakuraba and Kota Ibushi in 13:25
Relatively fun from what I saw. Iizuka and Sakuraba brawling was good and the interaction between Ibushi and Ishii was great. It worked to give the main eventers time to chill. From what I saw, I’ll go ***

G1 Climax 23 Finals
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito

It’s surprising to see Naito in the finals considering he had a good, but not great tournament. Not much to write home about early on as it seems like both men are working at a deliberate pace, meaning this will probably be a long finals. The first notable moment comes when Tanahashi dropkicks Naito’s knee. Naito starts to have trouble running the ropes, selling it very well. Or at least he was. As things progress, he seems to forget that it has been worked on during both of his matches tonight. Tanahashi more than does his part, hitting a High Fly Flow to the outside and working in a cloverleaf submission. They go to an exchange of forearms before colliding in the center of the ring. Both guys get in suplexes and it’s really annoying to see Naito not even try to sell the leg. He misses the Phoenix Splash and only now chooses to hold his knee again. Tanahashi goes back to it with more dragon screws and another cloverleaf. Naito struggles, but reaches the ropes. He then gets Tanahashi in the Koji Clutch but he also is able to reach the ropes. Tanahashi rolls through a top rope rana, turning it into the Styles Clash. He follows with High Fly Flow to the back but Naito gets his knees up on the second one. Tanahashi goes back to the knee, which Naito shrugs off and hits slingblade. When he can’t put Tanahashi down, he goes up and hits the Phoenix Splash to win the tournament.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito in 26:44
I really wanted so much more from that match. Tanahashi came to play, going after the leg and working smart, but his dance partner didn’t show up. Naito was about to get the biggest win of his career but he couldn’t be bothered to sell the leg work outside of a few brief moments. That really brings down the overall score for me. At least there was some great drama in the end to help things out. **¾

Overall: 7.5/10. Outside of a criminally disappointing main event and the Devitt/Makabe overbooked mess, this show consistently delivered. Everything other than those two matches got at least three stars and things just clicked for the most part. An easy watch and it’s on the higher spectrum of shows during this tournament.

Kevin’s Top G1 Climax 23 Matches
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night Four - *****
Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – Night Four - ****¾
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – Night Eight - ****½
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night Two - ****½
Kazuchika Okada vs. Togi Makabe – Night Four - ****¼
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night Eight - ****
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata – Night Nine - ****
Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night Eight - ****
Minoru Suzuki vs. Yuji Nagata – Night One - ****
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazuchika Okada – Night Six - ****