Monday, July 18, 2016

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night One Review

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night One
July 18th, 2016 | Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center in Hokkaido, Japan

The time is finally upon us. New Japan’s annual G1 Climax tournament has begun and will run through August 14th. Like I did for the Best of the Super Juniors tournament this year, I will only be reviewing the actual tournament matches to avoid burnout because nineteen shows is a lot of damn wrestling. We start with the A Block in the same building where things began last year. I believe the B Block is far superior so we’ll see how things shake out.

I would like to point out that they hilariously kept the footage of Tanahashi’s flag breaking during last year’s G1 celebration in the intro video.

A Block: Hiroyoshi Tenzan [2] def. Tomohiro Ishii [0] in 14:08
A lot of people bitched about Tenzan replacing Kojima since he had some poor performances last year, though that was mostly due to him dealing with injuries. I love that he got in for one final time despite being more of a Kojima fan. Tenzan and Ishii had some great interactions during multi-man tags in the BOTSJ so I was looking forward to this. As always, the crowd was way into this. They love Tenzan. Ishii took control and disrespected Tenzan by toying with him on some kicks and slaps to the face. That fired up Tenzan who even tossed the ref aside to get at Ishii. This was a war of two guys trying to hand out the most punishment. Tenzan locked in the Anaconda Vice and slammed him but only got two. Satoshi Kojima was at ringside with Tenzan and told a story with his desperate facial expressions. Ishii hit a sick headbutt and seated lariat that everyone thought would end it but Tenzan would not be denied. They got into a headbutt war that Tenzan won where he even blocked a kick by just taking it on the skull. He then used his buddy Koji’s lariat and a moonsault to pick up an emotional win. Both guys took a beating but it was the added emotional impact of Tenzan’s run, the hot crowd and Kojima at ringside that really helped send this into the next level. Amazing work from all three men that felt like a much more important match than a G1 opener. ****¼

A Block: Togi Makabe [2] def. Tama Tonga [0] in 10:36
Togi Makabe was sporting some new colors on his gear, looking like a cheap Okada knockoff. Also, someone lied to Tama Tonga and told him that his gear looked good. These two have a history with Tonga eliminating Makabe from the New Japan Cup earlier this year and being part of the team that took the IWGP Tag Team Titles from Togi and Tomoaki Honma. For a while, Tonga has been a guy that did well in multi-man tags but is finally getting a chance in 2016. It hasn’t worked out yet though, with no standout singles performances and a piss poor Tag Title run with his brother. Makabe pounced early and they started before the bell. The problem was that this had no real flow to it. Tonga just worked over Makabe for a while and nobody cared. It felt like a Yujiro Takahashi match from last year, which is bad. During his entrance and if Tonga posed at any point, you could hear a pin drop in the arena. They fought up top where Makabe nailed a spider belly to belly suplex and won with the King Kong Knee Drop. This felt way longer than it was. Not the start that Tonga was hoping for because this lacked any real interest and was very dull. This match made me want to Hangman Page myself. 

A Block: Hirooki Goto [2] def. Bad Luck Fale [0] in 9:18
Bad Luck Fale was pissed off from the start, attacking the ring announcer. He must have spent time watching that last match. If you entrance video is supposed to be highlights, why does Hirooki Goto’s show him losing to Okada? I like him but he’s such a loser. Goto went after Fale’s arm but fell victim to Fale’s power. We got the first of what I expect to be many guardrail whips and countout teases as Goto took a beating outside. Fale pounded away and nailed the Grenade for a near fall. He went for the devastating Bad Luck Fall, which, thanks to how it has been protected, draws a reaction each time. Goto slipped free and started the big comeback. He utilized a sleeper to put Fale into a lull before scoring with the GTR. I’d say this was about as good as you could expect from this combination. Hopefully Goto has a strong tournament points wise, because I know he’ll bring it performance wise. ***

A Block: SANADA [2] def. Hiroshi Tanahashi [0] in 19:28
This is Hiroshi Tanahashi’s return after dealing with some injuries that kept him out of Dominion. SANADA returned to NJPW at Invasion Attack and joined Los Ingobernables de Japon. He had a solid match with Okada at Wrestling Dontaku and some great interactions in multi-man tags but this is easily his biggest test so far. Tanahashi wore black boots and it looked so strange. They worked a slow start until things went outside and SANADA hit a drop toe hold into the guardrail. SANADA attacked the left arm, which Tanahashi sold very well. SANADA has some insane hops, jumping way high on some leap frogs before connecting with a dropkick. SANADA ate some trademark dragon screws and had his leg worked over. They go into strikes, which SANADA has the upper hand in due to the arm work. Tanahashi survived a dragon sleeper and countered another. He went for High Fly Flow but SANADA pulled an Orton and countered with a huge ace crusher. He only got two on that and a moonsault so he hit a second moonsault and slapped the dragon sleeper back on. Tanahashi tapped out cleanly, giving SANADA the biggest win of his career. Great stuff here. They solidified SANADA’s dragon sleeper as a legit finish and played into Tanahashi’s recent injury. The match did drag a bit at some points, but it had great moments, top notch selling and an awesome final few minutes capped off by the upset win. Side note, while it was an upset, I did predict SANADA would win this. ****

A Block: Naomichi Marufuji [2] def. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada [0] in 19:06
The ace of New Japan against the ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH. Marufuji is in the perfect block for him because I really feel like his style meshes well with the Okadas and Tanahashis of the world. Early on, it was clear they were trying to feel each other out, leading to a cool sequence of near misses. A trend of the night, Marufuji went to work on Okada’s arm, looking to take away the Rainmaker. You really got the feeling that Marufuji had Okada expertly scouted throughout. Some of the arm work Marufuji did was innovative and cool looking, which is appreciated after seeing arm work in the past two matches. They did a really good job of telling the audience how prepared Marufuji was, having Okada’s number at every turn. Okada sold the arm like death at some points, but forgot about it a bit when it was convenient for his offense. He looked overmatched and it was great. Marufuji won with Emerald Flowsion, giving us our second upset of night one. Marufuji turned back the clock and reminded me of when I saw him with ROH nearly ten years ago. The way he dominated makes me feel like he’ll get an IWGP Title shot down the line. If they did it in NOAH, it would be really cool. Not MOTY level for me like I’ve seen some say, but still really good. I could watch Okada get his ass handed to him every night.***¾

Overall: 8/10. A great start to this year’s G1 Climax. Night one has some stinkers last year but this time around, we only got one really bad match. Seriously, never watch Makabe and Tonga. Everything else delivered. Goto and Fale had pretty much the best possible match for Goto and Fale. Marufuji and Okada delivered a strong main event with an upset. I thought SANADA/Tanahashi was great and accomplished a lot of things. It was only bested by Tenzan and Ishii tearing down the house with a stiff match full of emotion. My kind of show, but again, skip the second G1 match.

Hirooki Goto2 (1-0)EVIL0 (0-0)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan2 (1-0)Katsuhiko Nakajima0 (0-0)
Naomichi Marufuji2 (1-0)Katsuyori Shibata0 (0-0)
SANADA2 (1-0)Kenny Omega0 (0-0)
Togi Makabe 2 (1-0)Michael Elgin0 (0-0)
Bad Luck Fale0 (0-1)Tetsuya Naito0 (0-0)
Hiroshi Tanahashi0 (0-1)Tomoaki Honma0 (0-0)
Kazuchika Okada0 (0-1)Toru Yano0 (0-0)
Tama Tonga0 (0-1)Yuji Nagata0 (0-0)
Tomohiro Ishii0 (0-1)YOSHI-HASHI0 (0-0)