The first two nights of the tournament proved to be a mixed bag. The guys you expected to deliver did and the guys you usually don’t expect much from didn’t, outside of Michael Elgin who was damn good. Hopefully, there is some upswing on this next set, though they aren’t the strongest of cards.
Clearly, both guys lost their first matches. Doc Gallows got to be the monster heel thanks to his size advantage. I don’t think he takes enough advantage of that usually but he did well here. At one point he just lifted Ibushi on the apron and dumped him hard outside. Ibushi did a great job selling for Gallows throughout. He busted out a Pele like kick to and moonsault to the outside. He showed off some more of his impressive power with a German that got a near fall. They botched a rana spot but recovered nicely as it led to Ibushi rolling through for the 1-2-3.
Better than I remember it being. Gallows was really solid as the big heel and Ibushi did one of his better sell jobs throughout. They even managed to fix their mistake at the end.
Takahashi’s lady tonight was pretty fantastic, doing a bunch of splits before the bell. He did the expected stuff, like attack Ishii early and use Cody Hall at ringside to his advantage. Again, I get that Takahashi is a heel, but his offense is mostly dull. He works over faces and it always just feels like it lasts forever. It’s also odd to see him in such control against guys like Ishii and Goto, who are much higher on the card than he is. After what seemed like the longest time, Ishii put him down with a Brainbuster.
Far too long for something that saw Takahashi in control. He really can be dreadful at times. Ishii’s comeback was fun enough to save this.
I’ll never understand why Fale has a shirt that says Under Boss, but has the Boss backwards. Is he the UNDERSSOB? I liked the idea of this matchup because, while Fale always has the size advantage, Makabe is known as a badass dude that could still take it to him. We got the trademark G1 countout tease after they fought in the crowd for a bit. Once inside, Fale wore down Makabe. Makabe powered up and started laying into Fale. They blocked some of the key offense from each other near the end. Fale scored on a spear and then won via Bad Luck Fall.
Pretty much what I wanted from these two. Go out and have a back and forth brawl that doesn’t overstay its welcome. That’s exactly what they did.
Considering his night one performance and Kojima’s penchant for good, hard hitting matches, I was pretty pumped for this matchup. They came out of the blocks firing and hammering away on each other. The pace of this match was great as everything flowed nicely and it didn’t go on for too long. The G1 is perfect for Elgin because he can stick to the good stuff that he does in the shorter matches, rather than trying to work 30 minute “classics” like he does in ROH too often. He got in his stuff, while Kojima had the crowd firmly in his corner, giving it a good atmosphere. Kojima got free of a few big moves before they fought up top. Kojima fell off, but caught a flying Elgin with a lariat to win.
A good battle between two tough dudes. Kojima has become my favorite of the older generation of guys in these tournaments and Elgin has been really good in his two outings. I liked the idea of the finish but it did come off looking like they flubbed it a bit. Still, I found this to be very enjoyable.
During the excellent G1 Climax 24 a year earlier, Yano’s best match came against AJ Styles. Actually, looking at that tournament and AJ’s first match during this one and I’ve never given a G1 match of his less than three stars. That includes one against Yujiro Takahashi. He’s great at adapting to his opponent’s style and it showed here as we got a really good version of Yano’s typical fun match. There was Yano hitting AJ with a water bottle before running and screaming “BREAK” on the ropes to Styles shouting “BUT HE HIT ME” when the referee took a chair away from him, this was highly entertaining. When Styles took control, Yano went into his bag of tricks but it backfired when Styles suplexed him into the exposed turnbuckle. Styles had a great low blow counter, blocking the shot and hitting a Pele. Yano had the crowd completely fall for one of his key rollups, though it wasn’t to be. Styles rolled through and made him tap to the Calf Killer.
Once again, AJ Styles adapts to his opponent’s style and makes it work so well. Despite being way higher in the card, the fans totally fall for Yano’s cheap rollups, telling you how well his character works. This was just plain fun.
This single camera stuff has been getting to me. The shows with them just don’t feel very important. Anyway, Anderson and Goto had some back and forth early on. Anderson took control with a sweet powerbomb on the apron that nearly got Goto counted out twice. Both guys provided very good counter wrestling. Anderson, being a total heel, stole some of Goto’s trademark offense to draw some heat. Goto rallied back with some of that same offense, highlighted by a sunset flip bomb off of the second rope. Just when it seemed like Goto was about to finish off the big babyface comeback run, he ate the Gun Stun and took the loss.
While these are two guys that I normally enjoy, neither has really impressed so far in the tournament. This was good, but far from great. Anderson dominated a surprising amount of the match too. It just never clicked the way I wanted it to.
This ranked as #57 in my “Top 100 Matches of 2015”. It was actually the match that really made me become huge fans of both guys and, to this day, they are my two favorite performers in NJPW. Naito came out in his full suit getup, but Shibata wasn’t about to have any of his usual stalling. He attacked quickly and kicked Naito’s ass. Naito had to work the first few minutes with the suit, but he got to take it off after attacking Shibata’s leg, similar to the game plan that AJ Styles had on night one. After some leg work, he tried to go with strikes, which is a clear fight you lose against Shibata. He just hammered away on Naito. Being a cocky dick, Naito thought that slapping Shibata would be a good idea. It wasn’t. Shibata put him in the sleeper hold and finished him off with the Penalty Kick.
There are better matches in the tournament (we’ve seen at least two already) but man, I really love this. It is two guys, playing to their strengths and doing what they do best. Great back and forth from both guys, some fine counters and about the right amount of time. They’d rematch it in September, though it wouldn’t be as good.
These two aren’t strangers to one another, having met several times in the past, including earlier in the year for Nakamura’s Intercontinental Title. This got off to a slow start, similar to the Karl Anderson match that Nakamura had a few nights earlier. He hasn’t’ seemed very interested in the tournament so far. Both guys kicked out of each other’s finishers, which I’ve come to expect with the Boma Ye unfortunately. It’s like, the opposite of the Bad Luck Fall in terms of being a protected finish. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Boma Ye or even his armbar that got Nakamura the win, it was a side kick to the face.
While both of his matches have been good, Nakamura seems to kind of sleepwalking through the tournament so far. This was solid though it started slow and never really kicked into the next gear.
Apparently, Tenzan is from Kyoto, making him the hometown favorite. As the match began, the fans immediately chanted for him. Tenzan got in a fair chunk of offense early on and had the fans in the palm of his hand. Kudos to Tanahashi, who realized that he was getting booed at times and turned up the heel antics just a bit. Not that he cheated or anything, but he got more vicious with his strikes at times and didn’t deliver a clean break at one point. He’s really good at pulling that off. Tenzan picked up several near falls that the crowd bit on but it wasn’t until he locked in the Anaconda Vice that they seemed to truly believe it was over. Nevertheless, Tanahashi won after nailing High Fly Flow.
I feel like that was better than I remembered the first time around. When I originally watched, I wasn’t really interested in Tenzan and didn’t give this the proper attention. I did this time around and really liked it. Tanahashi subtlety going slightly heel and the pro-Tenzan crowd were really cool.
After not main eventing on the first B Block show, the IWGP Champion gets to close out night four against the man with zero career G1 victories. While Okada is the champion, he couldn’t match Honma in terms of popularity here as the fans were behind the underdog from the opening bell. You could imagine this being a bit of a walk in the park for Okada and it was for a while actually. However, Honma blocked a Rainmaker with a headbutt and things got way interesting. Honma had a chance and the fans, as always, bought into everything. Okada had to dig deep to get what he thought was initially going to be easy. Of course, he nailed the Rainmaker eventually and picked up two more points, keeping Honma winless.
I often criticize Okada for being the kind of guy that has mediocre starts to his matches before waking up and killing it in the final act. Here, the early stuff made sense and they built to something that came off great. The crowd really added to this, bumping up the score a bit. Honma is perfect in his role as they made you believe he could win.
Overall: While the ceiling was higher for the first set of shows, these two felt more consistent to me. There were only two matches that I ranked under three stars, so that’s eight matches that I would consider good to great. Nothing stands out as a match of the year contender, but the shows combine to give an entertaining viewing. This time around, I preferred the A Block card.
|AJ Styles||4||Karl Anderson||4|
|Hirosthi Tanahashi||4||Kazuchika Okada||4|
|Bad Luck Fale||2||Tomohiro Ishii||4|
|Katsuyori Shibata||2||Hirooki Goto||2|
|Kota Ibushi||2||Satoshi Kojima||2|
|Hiroyoshi Tenzan||2||Shinsuke Nakamura||2|
|Tetsuya Naito||2||Yuji Nagata||2|
|Togi Makabe||2||Michael Elgin||0|
|Doc Gallows||0||Tomoaki Honma||0|
|Toru Yano||0||Yujiro Takahashi||0|