The time has finally arrived. After last year's Ultima Lucha won my "Show of the Year" Award, I'm excited for this one. The arena is set up like normal, except there are banners hyping the big matches.
4 A Unique Opportunity Semi-Final Falls Count Anywhere Match: The Mack def. Cage in 10:12
These two opened Ultima Lucha last year so Dario Cueto showed up and reminded everyone of it. To ensure that Ultima Lucha Dos is as violent as the original, he made the match Falls Count Anywhere! They started in the ring, which is different from their first match, which got **** from me. Like last year, they brawled all over the place and bring out the fun weapons. They fight into Dario's office and, perfectly in character, Dario has a wide grin as these two beat the shit out of each other. Cage got near falls after smashing a framed picture on Mack's head and again after a sick powerbomb onto chairs. Mack mimicked Honky Tonk Man after a guitar shot, in a play off of him mimicking Stone Cold last season. Mack brought some damn pinatas into play and they had weapons inside. He did get to hit the stunner after swigging some beer. Mack came off a high guardrail with a massive frog splash through a table because this match was damn insane. Cage brought out the cinder block in a callback from last season. His curb stomp failed as he slipped on beer and Mack rolled him up to avenge the loss from last season. Like last year, this was a fucking blast. It went a bit longer but they had a really fun war and played off of their first encounter perfectly. ****
4 A Unique Opportunity Semi-Final Boyle Height Bar Fight: Son of Havoc def. Texano in 7:20
The great Dario Cueto was at it again, making this a bar fight because that's what he thinks of when he sees a cowboy and a biker. There were actual drinks and such around the ring. This was a lot of fun too. Seeing Texano hit Son of Havoc with a beer, only for it to not affect him because he was wearing a helmet made me chuckle. Havoc hit a top rope rana onto a broken wooden chair. Like, there could have splinters there dude! Texano also got backdropped onto the bar, which pretty much blew up and caused him to be covered in blood. Havoc then springboard double stomped him into a piece of the bar to win. Like I said, this was fun and brutal at the same time, it just lacked something that the opener had. ***1/4
They run down the card for the next two weeks of Ultima Lucha.
- Death Match: King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes
- Trios Championship: Jack Evans, Johnny Mundo & PJ Black (c) vs. Aerstaro, Drago & Fenix
- Ivelisse vs. Taya
- Gift of the Gods Championship: Daga vs. Killshot vs. Mariposa vs. Marty Martinez vs. Night Claw vs. Sexy Star vs. Siniestro de la Muerte
- Black Lotus vs. Dragon Azteca Jr.
- Lucha Underground Championship: Matanza Cueto (c) vs. Pentagon Jr.
- Rey Mysterio vs. Prince Puma
4 A Unique Opportunity Finals Falls Count Anywhere: Son of Havoc def. The Mack in 5:32
More from Dario Cueto, who made this one falls count anywhere as well. Dario's "RING THE BELL" was on point all night. Mack was quick to show that just because he's bigger, he wasn't over matched athletically and took to the skies. They went back and forth and fought outside, but not too much. Mack got the knees up on a Havoc shooting star press and pulled him into a pin for two. Havoc came back and hit the shooting star press to win. This was fine but the weakest part of the show so far and it came off as very anticlimactic. **3/4
After a break, Dario Cueto and Black Lotus entered the ring. She had two briefcases for Son of Havoc to choose from. One had $250,000 and the other just so happened to have a shot at the Lucha Underground Championship at Ultima Lucha Tres! Havoc said he could get an offer of $250,000,000 and still choose the title shot. The crowd popped and Dario said he'll get the shot, if he can win just one more match. Famous B appeared atop the stage to introduce his new client, 50 year old Dr. Wagner Jr!
Unique Opportunity Match: Dr. Wagner Jr. def. Son of Havoc in 2:10
This was exactly what you'd expect. Wagner attacked quickly and did his thing. Son of Havoc got in some hope spots as part of a rally but suffered too much throughout the night. He missed the shooting star press and fell to the Dr. Driver. Fine for what it was as Dario screws over the fan favorite and Dr. Wagner is $250,000 richer. NO RATING
Overall: 7/10. A solid start for Ultima Lucha. After the first match, this was on pace to be a glorious night. The bar fight was strong too and blended violence with fun very well. The final things didn't land as strong for me. Mack/Havoc left a lot to be desired and I get that Dr. Wagner Jr. is a big name, but I can't say I'm too excited to see him around. Still, Dario Cueto made this night more fun that it probably would have been otherwise. He nails everything.
If you do want to check out Lucha Underground, which you absolutely should, and don't get El Rey Network (like me), you can sign up for the streaming service Fubo.TV. It's a great way to support the company and channel while streaming the show online. You can sign up and get Lucha Underground right here with Fubo.tv!
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Beginning Monday, July 18th, New Japan Pro Wrestling begins their massive annual G1 Climax tournament. The tournament has existed since 1974 but it became the "G1 Climax" in 1991. It is done in round-robin format and features twenty wrestlers, split into two ten person blocks. Each wrestler takes on the other nine in their block once and the men who finish with the most points in each block meet in the finals. Two years ago, the 24th G1 Climax was the greatest wrestling tournament I've ever seen. The winner gets a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, NJPW's WrestleMania. The tournament runs from 7/18 until 8/14.
Bad Luck Fale
For the third straight year, Bad Luck Fale enters the G1 Climax. Bullet Club member, former IWGP Intercontinental Champion and resident NJPW big man, Fale has done well so far, going 11-8 over two years. He finished third two years ago and fourth last year, while racking up two wins over Hiroshi Tanahashi. Fale is hard to predict. He gets booked very well in these tournaments, but he's been rather irrelevant for a few months as his last actual program was with Tanahashi in April. I'm not very interested in much from him as he's usually only good when taking on the very best and his block isn't exactly loaded. He'll most likely finish with a similar point total from the past two years.
Prediction: 10 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Marufuji (7/23), vs. Ishii (7/25), vs. Tanahashi (7/28)
A year ago, it looked like New Japan was finally on the road to making Hirooki Goto a top star. Granted, he's had a lot of success in his career, including a G1 Climax victory in 2008, but he's kind of always been second tie. No IWGP Heavyweight Title wins despite two Intercontinental Title reigns and multiple New Japan Cup victories. Goto lost another shot at the big belt back in February and joined Chaos, led by the guy who beat him, Kazuchika Okada. Goto kind of feels like a big time afterthought now. He's third fiddle in Chaos, behind Okada and Ishii. Still, I suspect he does pretty well and maybe he can sort of re-establish himself as a viable contender in New Japan.
Prediction: 10 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Ishii (7/23), vs. SANADA (7/28), vs. Tanahashi (7/31)
Two time G1 Climax winner, Hiroshi Tanahashi won the entire tournament last year, defeating Shinsuke Nakamura in the finals. Tanahashi lost his IWGP Heavyweight Title shot and Kazuchika Okada is now officially the "ace" of the company. Tanahashi said he wouldn't challenge for the title again but finds himself in the G1. He's dealt with a fair amount of injuries this year but is still a heavy favorite to make it to the finals. I can't see him winning the entire thing because the thought of another Tanahasi/Okada Tokyo Dome match sounds ridiculous. I sense he finds a way into the finals and takes a loss there, putting over someone from the B Block big time. Most likely, he works an IC Title match or something at WK next year.
Prediction: 14 points
Most exciting matches: vs. SANADA (7/18), vs. Ishii (8/3), vs. Marufuji (8/6)
Originally, G1 Climax legend Hiroyoshi Tenzan was left out of this year's tournament. He's a former three-time winner and has appeared in 19 straight tournaments. He was upset at being left out, so his tag partner, Satoshi Kojima, gave up his spot to him. Kojima has been a better performer than Tenzan lately, but this is cool to see. Tenzan struggled last year due to injury but can turn it on when he needs to. I'd rather he and Kojima be in than Fale for example. People are disrespecting the shit out of Tenzan's inclusion. Dude is a legend and this should be his last run through the G1 Climax. Tenzan might not win many matches, but you can expect the crowd to be completely invested in every single one of his matches.
Prediction: 6 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Ishii (7/18), vs. Okada (7/31), vs. SANADA (8/12; could be his final G1 match ever)
Unfortunately, Kazuchika Okada is the IWGP Heavyweight Champion again. That's my personal opinion and I know a lot of people disagree. I just don't get very excited to see Okada and don't believe he's as great as many do. With that out of the way, the guy is certainly good. He's now a four time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and isn't even thirty yet. He won the G1 in 2012 and 2014 and was a heavy favorite to pull a San Francisco Giants and win in another even year here until Dominion last month. On that night, he won back the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the champion isn't going to win the tournament. This will be similar to last year, where he entered as champion and was in contention right up until the end.
Prediction: 14 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Goto (7/25), vs. Makabe (8/3), vs. Ishii (8/6)
I first saw Naomichi Marufuji in Ring of Honor, having awesome matches with Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson and many others. His inclusion in this year's G1 was a fantastic surprise. I know he's no longer at his peak but Marufuji can still go when he needs to. For the past few years, the IWGP Tag Team Champions have been in the tournament. This year, the Briscoes hold them and aren't in, so we get the GHC Tag Champions instead, which Marufuji is one half of. He's in the perfect block for his style. Guys like Okada and Tanahashi play right into his strengths and he should mesh well with a lot of guys here to produce some strong matches. He appeared in the 2012 G1, scoring eight points and I think he finishes with about the same total here.
Prediction: 8 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Ishii (7/28), vs. SANADA (8/3), vs. Goto (8/12)
Our first G1 Climax rookie. SANADA spent some years over in TNA but returned at Invasion Attack this year to help Tetsuya Naito win the IWGP Heavyweight Title and join Los Ingobernables de Japon. Since then SANADA has proved himself to be a strong addition. While he lost to Kazuchika Okada at Wrestling Dontaku, he's done very well in the LIDJ vs. Chaos multi-man tags and finds himself in a bit of a rivalry with YOSHI-HASHI that has been majorly entertaining. SANADA should hover around the middle of the pack of the tournament. He'll do enough to shine but not enough to really be a big time threat. I do expect him to pick up a win over one of the top guys (Tanahashi, Okada, Ishii, etc.) giving him a nice feather in his cap.
Prediction: 8 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Okada (7/23), vs. Makabe (7/28), vs. Ishii (8/8)
It's been a bit of a breakout year for Tama Tonga. He spent years in multi-man tags as part of the Bullet Club B-Team, but that has changed. To start the year, he won his fist title, the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Championship before capturing the IWGP Tag Team Titles with his brother, Tanga Roa. Their run with the titles was very lackluster and their matches were bland. Roa doesn't get a shot here but Tonga gets to make his G1 Climax debut. He should be involved in some interesting first time ever matches. I don't believe he'll rack up many points but he needs to use this tournament to start having breakout performances. A slew of good matches could go a long way for him.
Prediction: 6 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Tanahashi (7/25), vs. Okada (7/28), vs. SANADA (8/6)
Togi Makabe is in a bit of a strange place. He isn't as close to the end of his line as a Kojima, Nakanishi or Tenzan, but he's closer to the end than a lot of the guys in his block. Makabe has had tons of success in his career, including an IWGP Heavyweight Title reign and a G1 Climax win. Now, he's past things like that but is still booked relatively strongly. He should find himself in a similar situation to last year. A middle of the pack points total, mostly solid matches and a few bad ones (I'm looking at Fale/Togi). I have no interest in another Ishii/Makabe match (like Okada/Tana), though we're getting one. Though he doesn't enter as NEVER Openweight Champion like he did last year, he'll still end in the same place I think.
Prediction: 8 points
Most exciting matches: vs. Tanahashi (7/23), vs. Marufuji (7/31), vs. Goto (8/8)
Our final G1 Climax A Block competitor is fan favorite Tomohiro Ishii. Over the past three G1 Climaxes, Ishii has put on fantastic match after fantastic match with a variety of opponents. Tomoaki Honma, Katsuyori Shibata, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, the list goes on and on. Expect more of the same here. Most of his matches should be top notch because Ishii always delivers. The G1 style and format suits him. He's won the NEVER Openweight and ROH TV Titles in the past year and finished with 10 points in each of the past two G1 tournaments. I suspect he gets to ten again this time around. While his best opponents (Shibata and Honma) are on the other side, Ishii should have at least one MOTY candidate this go around.
Prediction: 10 points
Most exciting matches: I mentioned them all in other people's most exciting matches. Ishii is that damn good.